By Jennifer Ugwueke
Six years after FIFA was thrown into crisis by a dawn raid at a luxury hotel in Zurich, world football’s governing body is set to share $201 million in compensation for crimes committed by a generation of senior officials.
That raid, conducted by the Swiss authorities on behalf of the US Department of Justice, led to dramatic changes at FIFA, most notably the downfall of former president Sepp Blatter, and resulted in indictments for more than 40 administrators and executives.
Earlier this week at a court in Brooklyn, former El Salvador football federation boss Reynaldo Vasquez became the 27th man to plead guilty to fraud charges related to the sale of broadcast and marketing rights. Four corporate entities have pleaded guilty to similar offences, while two others have been found guilty after trials.
The compensation pot is made up of money seized from these companies and individuals.
FIFA, under new management since 2016, has always maintained it was the victim, not the perpetrator, of these crimes and will share the damages with CONCACAF, the confederation which runs the game in North and Central America, and its South American counterpart CONMEBOL.
“The approval of this remission of funds illegally obtained in the FIFA scandal marks another important milestone in these prosecutions and the department’s commitment to use all tools at its disposal to prosecute corruption and to deprive perpetrators of ill-gotten gains,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
“This remission highlights the importance of asset forfeiture as a critical tool for the recovery of criminal proceeds and the pursuit of justice.”
“Today’s announcement confirms that money stolen by corrupt soccer officials and sports marketing executives through fraud and greed will be returned to where it belongs and used to benefit the sport,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Jacquelyn M. Kasulis for the Eastern District of New York.
“From the start, this investigation and prosecution have been focused on bringing wrongdoers to justice and restoring ill-gotten gains to those who work for the benefit of the beautiful game. Our office, together with our law enforcement partners, will always work to compensate victims of crime.”