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 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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