by Tony Attwood
In what must be one of the most bizarre coincidences of all time in football, the U.S. Department of Justice has announced that it is awarding Fifa and the Football Confederation of the United States an additional $92 million in restitution, on top of the $201 million announced last August, for wrongdoing by former world soccer officials.
Bizarre because this comes at exactly the moment that world football (outside of the UK of course, wherein Fifa stories are not reported, seemingly at the behest of the English FA who probably realise that any investigation into Fifa’s long-term activities could reflect disastrously on the public view of the FA as a body able to judge where the corruption is) is looking on in total shock and amazement at what is being revealed in Switzerland about the activities and antics of Blatter and others over the Darwin affair,
The American money goes all the way back to 3 December 2015 when a 92-count indictment was unsealed charging 16 defendants with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies, among other offences, in connection with their participation in a 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through the corruption of international football.
The superseding indictment also included additional charges for seven of the defendants still pending extradition following the return of the original indictment the previous May. The guilty pleas of eight defendants – including Jeffrey Webb, Alejandro Burzaco and José Margulies, three of the defendants indicted last May – were also announced at that time.
Now the Federal Prosecutor’s Office in Brooklyn, New York, has announced in a statement the “additional distribution of approximately 92 million dollars to compensate for losses suffered by Fifa, the world soccer organization, Concacaf (Confederation of North America, Central America and the Caribbean), Conmebol (South American Confederation of Football) and various national soccer federations.”
The statement added that, “This measure “marks our commitment to return to the victims money obtained by corruption and fraud (…) which will be reused in the interest of sport”, according to Brooklyn prosecutor Breon Peace, recalling that in the United States, as a part of the “Fifagate” scandal more than 50 individuals and companies from 20 countries had been prosecuted.
The case became public knowledge in May 2015 with the arrest of seven of the top men of world football in Zurich and which led, a few months later, to the departure of Sepp Blatter, president of Fifa since 1998, with him being succeeded by the now notorious (although still flourishing in Qatar) Gianni Infantino.
The affair related to a system of bribery and corruption centred on football officials in South America and Central America, in exchange for the allocation of TV broadcasting rights of various competitions, such as the World Cup and the Copa America.
This set of prosections resulted in the sentencing of Paraguayan Juan Angel Napout, former president of Conmebol (the South American Football Federation), to nine years in prison and Brazilian José Maria Marin, former head of the Brazilian federation, to four years in prison.
But there is of course an absolute sublime irony that this money should be given to Fifa just at the moment that the top brass of the Swiss Attorney General’s Office met to discuss what they called the ‘Darwin’ issue. Darwin being the code word for the investigation into what was going on in Fifa in terms of its wholesale fraud and corruption.
Following that revelation which seemingly we alone among UK media published in the article “Is Fifa about to follow Infantino and move to the Persian Gulf?” most of the world is waiting with bated breath to see if Infantino will persuade Fifa to wriggle his way out of the clutches of the Swiss authorities over the wholesale corrupt practices of its senior staff (with, in passing, and allegedly, the collusion of one of the most senior members of the Swiss central legal department), we find the Americans given the Association more money!
I am certain this isn’t going to influence the Swiss investigation but it could maybe speed up things in terms of the Fifa Exodus to the middle east that we have been suggesting could be on the cards.
One possibility, and of course I have no evidence for this, for this is mere speculation, is that the executive and senior officers of Fifa will move to Qatar in order to help “oversee” the World Cup, and then at the end, just stay there. We shall see. If they stay, you read it here first. If they don’t, well, clearly Untold scared them off!!!