Football: Argentinian firm agrees to pay S$160 million to settle charges in Fifa corruption scandal

Ignacio Galarza, the general manager of the Argentine sports communications firm Torneos y Competencias S.A., is seen following a hearing in United States Court in Brooklyn, New York on Dec 13, 2016.
Ignacio Galarza, the general manager of the Argentine sports communications firm Torneos y Competencias S.A., is seen following a hearing in United States Court in Brooklyn, New York on Dec 13, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (AFP) - Argentine sports marketing company Torneos y Competencias S.A. on Tuesday (Dec 13) agreed to pay US$112.8 million (S$160.5 million) to settle charges in the United States stemming from the massive Fifa corruption scandal, the authorities said.

Torneos "admitted to its role in the 15-year scheme, including its role in paying tens of millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks to a high-ranking Fifa official to secure his support" for broadcast rights to the 2018, 2022, 2026 and 2030 editions of the World Cup, the US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York said in a statement.

Under the arrangement, the Argentine company averts prosecution if it avoids charges in the next four years, pays fines and returns tainted funds.

"Today's announcement marks another important step in our continuing effort to root out corruption in international soccer and sends a clear message that corporate entities that rely on the US financial system to enrich themselves through bribery will be held to account," said US Attorney Robert Capers.

US prosecutors accused 40 officials and marketing executives of soliciting and receiving tens of millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks in a case that sparked an unprecedented crisis at Fifa.

Many have since pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in exchange for a possible reduction in sentence. Two companies were also accused.

Only five defendants are left under house arrest in the United States, facing a trial that a federal judge has recommended should begin in New York late next year.

The US investigation rocked Fifa to the core and ultimately led to the downfall of its former president, Sepp Blatter, who is serving a six-year ban from football over ethics violations.

Blatter is now under a fresh investigation over alleged illicit salaries and bonuses totalling US$80 million, Fifa's ethics committee said in September.