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April 2021

Five years ago we suggested a Fifa official was involved in money laundering. Looks like we were right

By Tony Attwood

In February 2002, my colleague Anne, made reference to one Julio Grondana in an article in Untold in which note Julio Grondona as the head of the Argentine FA since 1979 and who is FIFA’s senior vice-president and head of its finance committee.  As Anne said, “here is the man who has almost total control of a Football Association that is financially an absolute and total wreck and who is head of the finance committee of FIFA.”

When club directors went to the FA for money to pay players Grondona went to Televisión Satelital Codificada (who had the rights for Argentine football on TV) and demanded cash up front for future TV contracts.  Grondona then said he would distribute the cash to the clubs. Personally.

TSC offered £7m in advance, but the clubs said they wanted a “better and more permanent solution”, and demanded over £42m.   Grondona then asked the government wipe out the clubs’ tax debts.

In March 2002 Anne developed the theme further and wrote the article Money laundering and football; some rather interesting examples for Untold.

It was Part II of a 3-part series that showed how money laundering worked on a global scale and how an apparent clean up of Fifa was actually allowing criminals to continue their work.

In the article Anne said, “It is absurd that Blatter, who has benefited from the explosion of corruption during his tenure as Fifa General Secretary and President and who managed the kickback scandals for at least two decades, is controlling this ‘clean-up’ scheme. It is created by Blatter to protect him and those close to him. His pretence of a ‘road map to reform’ is risible…

The article continues a little later investigation of allegations made in Argentina show that “Fifa finance committee chair Julio Grondona controls offshore accounts, mostly in Switzerland, containing $120 million. There seems no obvious source of this wealth.”

Today five years on, the news has broken that a “former Swiss banker has admitted paying millions of dollars in bribes to Julio Grondona, a former senior executive at Fifa, chairman of football’s world governing body’s finance committee and president of the Argentinian football association.”

A report on the website of the United States Department of Justice shows that “Earlier today, a private banker formerly employed by several Swiss banks pleaded guilty in Brooklyn, New York, to a criminal information charging him with participating in a money laundering conspiracy in connection with the distribution and receipt of millions of dollars of bribes paid to high-ranking soccer officials.”

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The defendant was Jorge Luis Arzuaga, a 56 year old Argentinian national.   He pleaded guilty to money laundering charges and among other things admitted opening bank accounts in Switzerland for Grondona.  These accounts were used to move around $25m in bribes to him and other Fifa bigwigs from Torneos, a TV rights marketing company, based in Argentina. Arzuaga has admitted to being paid $1.046m for facilitating this corruption.

The report on the Deparment of Justice web site doesn’t name Grondona but calls him Soccer official #1 “a high-ranking official of Fifa, Conmebol and the Asociación del Fútbol Argentina (AFA)”.   Grondona fits the bill.  He died in 2014.

Picking up the case the Guardian web site today adds that “The indictment states Arzuaga became involved in the corrupt payment of bribes from Torneos to Grondona and other football officials as recently as 2010, when he was working at an affiliate of a Swiss bank, which is not named.”

The story runs that Grondona was approached by the president of Torneos, to open a Swiss bank account for Grondona. He was then proceeded “to channel the payment of huge bribes to Grondona while working for the Swiss bank, and at another bank, which the indictment also does not name.”

The indictment states Arauaga “knew it would be extremely difficult to open a bank account for Soccer Official #1 given Soccer Official #1’s reputation for corruption”, and Grondona’s name as the recipient of the money was not given.

This follows on the case of Burzaco, who pleased guilty last year to the paying of “bribes and kickbacks when securing TV and marketing rights to multiple South American football tournaments,” according to the Guardian.

The Swiss office of the attorney general said it too had “concluded criminal proceedings against Arzuaga for the offences committed in Switzerland, document forgery and violation of the duty to report money laundering. His payments for those offences, $650,000, will be forfeited to the Swiss government.”

The Swiss Office of the Attorney General said in cooperation with the US Dept of Justice, it is continuing 25 separate investigations into alleged corruption committed by senior figures within Fifa, having received 178 reports of alleged money laundering, and is analysing documents amounting to 19 terabytes of data.

So, nice to know we were doing our bit to publicise the corruption of Fifa that long ago.   And it is good that the Guardian is running the story today.   I wonder if the FA in England is re-thinking its approach to working with Fifa.

No, that’s too much to hope for.

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11 comments to Five years ago we suggested a Fifa official was involved in money laundering. Looks like we were right

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    Corruption at all levels in Fifa must be unearthed however deep rooted it has gone. It’s must be pulled out completely and burn to ashes. And and anti-corruption measure must be put in place at Fifa headquarters whereby any corruption malpractice being orchestrated by any Fifa officials will be blocked by the anti-graft mechanism put in place at Fifa to check mate the would be fraudster Officials at Fifa headquarters and it’s affiliated Confederation units worldwide.

  • WalterBroeckx

    I think the article was from 2012. A minor detail.
    I remember Anne her articles and remember she got some abuse from some people who said she was seeing things that weren’t there…. And some in a not so polite way….
    The mills of justice grind slowly is an expression in my country but they sure were grinding and now Anne has been proven right.

  • GoingGoingGooner

    I remember Anne’s articles well. Well done to Anne and Untold.

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    I am sorry for deviating from the article topic posting that is threading.

    It has been reported on Sky Sports today’s morning that the Leon president has for the 2nd summer running blocked Lacasette transfer to Arsenal despite the correct bidding Arsenal have submitted to Leon to have the 26 old striker transferred to us.

    But why has the Leon President been blocking Lacasette transfer to Arsenal but has agreed early on to let him join Atletico Madrid but for AM being banned by Fifa from doing any player transfer this summer the transfer is scuppered. And Lacasette himself has appeared to be obsessed in playing in the CL, a CL competion he’ll be playing in at Arsenal as from 2018-19 season and onwards if he comes to us. Because Arsenal missing on the CL next season was one miss which doesn’t occur but in 2 decades.

    Therefore, Arsenal should not be wasting their time trying to negotiate Lacasette transfer with Leon as their President will block the transfer even if Arsenal bid above the odds for him because he hates Le Prof or Arsenal and will make sure Lacasette doesn’t come to us.

    I think Arsenal should concentrate on Kylian Mbappe possible transfer to bring him to Arsenal by all means if he wants to come to us but within the financial capability of Arsenal. But if the finance to bring him to the Emirates Stadium is a serious constraint, I think Arsenal should forget about the transfer too and concentrate in stabilizing the staying of Sanchez and Ozil for another long term deal and also stabilize the staying of other Gunners whose contract deals are nearing expiration.

    Arsenal already have a very strong senior team on ground that’s which only need refurbished with 3 additions of a defender for which Kolasinac has already been signed. What remains now is to strengthened their midfield with a top quality signing of a deep lying player to replace Santi Cazorla in the interim and on the long term. And also try to find a marquee striker who ticks all the boxes to sign this summer. Mbappe is ideal for this purpose but their is a but in doing his business. So, Arsenal should move on to find an appropriate striker target. Diego Costa? Or who? Le Prof knows better. But he must get it right when he signed. If he feels he can’t get it right with the other remaining qualities in the transfer market, let him not do any costly striker signing that will fail. He has some good players who have have returned from loan and among them he can fish out 2-3 Gunners to revamp any weak position in his first team squad for next season’s campaign and win the League.

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    For his avoiding tax payments to the Spanish tax authorities who are experts in fishing out footballers tax evaders and have never been known to be wrong in their indictments of footballers who have defaulted in paying tax. I think Cristiano Ronaldo should just admit it he’s clever tax payments evasion has been found out by the Spanish tax collectors and therefore should stop ranting and pay what he owes them before they charge him to court to pay. The court tax evasion case Ronaldo can’t win because of the likely overwhelming superior evidence in possession of the Spanish tax authorities to prove their tax evasion indictment case against Ronaldo beyond any doubt.

    Has Messi, Sanchez and others not been indicted correctly before by the Spanish tax authorities for evading to pay the tax they have cleverly evaded to pay? And after ranting by some of them, some of them paid after they were charged to court and found guilty. And some admitted they’ve evaded paying and paid. Why should Ronaldo think his own tax evasion case should be treated differently? Because he’s a football icon? Is Messi not a football icon and yet he paid?

  • Seydlitz

    Why did Anne stop writing for untold?

  • colario

    Ah Seydlitz!

  • Seydlitz: Her personal circumstances changed and she no longer had the time to do all the analysis that was necessary to put into the articles. Also, like all of us who put forward a radical view (and when she was writing for Untold it was a singularly radical view – before the fall of Blatter) – and so she got the abuse that all of us who stick our necks out get. Our referee reviewers get it all the time, as do I, but it can be upsetting sometimes to some people.

  • Menace

    To Anne. I raise a glass for being dedicated enough to put truth in words. I hope you will come back with a smile & a little more honest truths.

    I hope you have enjoyed the FA cup wins.

  • Seydlitz

    Tony thanks for information, I really apreaciated her contributions.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    I remember very well those articles and the great work put in by Anne, and being truly impressed by her body of work.
    Of course there were the usual idiots who did try to detract her as well as scoffed at they articles then.
    Wonder how they must be feeling now ?
    Well done Anne and Untold Arsenal for ever fighting the good fight