While the latest happenings in the governing world of soccer are not a typical blog topic for us, the legal issues and impacts are worth considering in a broader context. Soccer fan or not, certainly interesting times.
Late Thursday Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced that 16 additional defendants have been indicted in the on-going probe of FIFA, soccer’s world governing body. The superseding indictment names several high-ranking FIFA officials and charges corruption involving two generations of soccer officials in South and Central America over a 24 year period. The corruption scheme involves more than $200 million in bribes to win media and marketing rights for major tournaments.
The indictment alleges that since 1991, the defendants engaged in a conspiracy to commit fraud, bribery and money laundering. It names current and former leaders of soccer unions in six Central American nations and alleges that FIFA officials participated in a number of schemes designed to solicit and receive bribes to sell lucrative media and marketing rights and to shut out competitors from media contracts. A total of 41 individuals and entities have been charged in the year-long investigation.
Also this week, FIFA Vice Presidents Alfredo Hawit and Juan Angel Napout were arrested by police at a Swiss luxury hotel where they were attending a meeting to discuss an overhaul of FIFA in the wake of the corruption scandal. Hawit currently heads CONCACAF, which is responsible for soccer in North and Central America, and Napout leads CONMEBOL, the governing body for soccer in South America.
New allegations in the superseding indictment relate to bribery schemes in connection with multiple FIFA World Cup qualifiers and international matches involving six Central American soccer associations. The bribery allegations concerning CONMEBOL officials involve broadcasting rights for South American tournaments. Charges against CONCACAF officials center on bribes paid by an Argentinian sports marketing company to obtain media and marketing rights.
At the time the indictment was unsealed, Attorney General Lynch announced that eight people had pled guilty in the case and have agreed to forfeit more than $40 million in illegal profits. Many of the guilty pleas occurred in closed-door hearings during November. The defendants face maximum prison terms of 20 years as well as mandatory restitution, fines and forfeitures.
Conspicuously absent from the indictment was former FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who along with other top FIFA officials, is currently under investigation by Swiss authorities. The investigation of Blatter, and other top FIFA officials, is ongoing and additional charges are expected.