FIFA, the governing body of world football, and two other organizations in America will receive about $200 million in compensation from the US government after the Justice Department classified them as victims of the corruption scandal that toppled most of their senior leadership in 2015. threw.
The repayment will begin with an initial payment of $32.3 million in forfeitures, the Justice Department said Tuesday, but prosecutors have approved a plan that would allow the football organizations to receive as much as $201 million.
The return of the money comes six years after an extensive criminal prosecution uncovered decades of corruption on a staggering scale, draining millions of dollars from sports and into the pockets of football officials and business executives worldwide. It comes five years after FIFA, which labeled itself corrupt but not corrupt, first began asking for some of the money US officials collected in the case.
Refunds will be made to FIFA, the sport’s governing body; CONCACAF, the organization that oversees football in the Americas and the Caribbean; and CONMEBOL, which rules the sport in South America. The previous leaders of those organizations, as well as those of national football federations across America, were deeply involved in the scandal. Since 2015, more than 50 people and companies have been indicted and dozens have pleaded guilty.
The Justice Department’s decision suggested a measure of restored confidence in FIFA’s management, even though the money came with the necessary obligations: the money should be walled in a foundation and focused on the development of football around the world. , according to Tuesday’s announcement.
In a statement Tuesday, FIFA president Gianni Infantino thanked US authorities for their “quick and effective approach to bringing these matters to a successful conclusion, as well as for their confidence in general.”
Such spending parameters have permeated other major corruption cases, such as the United Nations Oil-for-Food case, in which the Justice Department specifically assigned restitution money to a development fund in Iraq.
When US authorities announced their criminal case in 2015 and charged dozens of powerful officials and marketing executives on charges including racketeering, telephony fraud and money laundering conspiracy, prosecutors made it clear that they saw the football organizations as victims co-opted by dishonest operators.
Lawyers from FIFA and the regional confederations continued to struggle to control the perception of prosecutors and the public, trying to distance the organizations from the accused criminals; cooperate with the authorities; and empower the sports organizations as victims powerless against the fraud of their top leaders.
In a 2016 lawsuit, FIFA lawyers argued that the organization had lost at least $28 million to 20 football officials in 12 years, along with other incalculable costs.
CONMEBOL has already recovered millions of dollars through other channels. In July, it said it had received more than $1.7 million from Swiss authorities, money held in a personal account of one of its former leaders. That money was in addition to the $55 million the organization said it had already recovered from the accounts of other former officials.
In the years since it came to the fore with luxury hotel raids in 2015, the FIFA case, one of the largest criminal charges in America when it was announced, has progressed, even as public attention to the proceedings and to corruption in global football has declined.
This week, Reynaldo Vasquez, El Salvador’s former top football official who was indicted in 2015, pleaded guilty in federal court in Brooklyn. Earlier this year, prosecutors announced that Swiss bank Julius Baer had agreed to pay more than $79 million in fines for its role in money laundering in the scandal.
Yet, years later, key figures have still not been convicted or convicted, and some former officials are still at large. One, Marco Polo del Nero, the former head of the Brazilian Football Federation, was recently taken in while he appeared to be running the federation’s affairs, despite FIFA banning him for life from working in organized football.
When announcing the new conviction this week, U.S. law enforcement officials telegraphed that they were still watching the sport, and Tuesday’s announcement underscored that.
“From the outset,” United States Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Jacquelyn M. Kasulis, said in a statement, “this investigation and prosecution have been focused on bringing wrongdoers to justice and redressing wrongful acts.” gains obtained, which work for the sake of the beautiful game.”