Football: Fifa seeks payback from corrupt men over World Cup bribes

A Fifa sign is seen outside the Fifa headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland.
A Fifa sign is seen outside the Fifa headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland. PHOTO: REUTERS

ZURICH • Fifa yesterday demanded tens of millions of dollars in damages from the "sordid" officials now facing charges in the United States over mass bribery scandals that have rocked world football.

In a wide-ranging admission to the US authorities on the scope of corruption, football's governing body openly accused South Africa of paying a US$10 million (S$13.8 million) bribe to secure votes for the 2010 World Cup.

Fifa also highlighted how one of the main accused, former vice-president Jeffrey Webb, has allegedly been leading a champagne lifestyle despite agreeing to hand over millions of dollars as part of a plea deal with US officials.

"By corrupting these tournaments, matches, sponsorships, and other football affairs through their back-room deals and secret payoffs, the defendants dragged Fifa into their sordid misconduct and tarnished the Fifa brand," Fifa said in its demand for restitution made to the US authorities.

It added that it "estimates that at a minimum tens of millions of dollars were diverted from the football community illegally through bribery, kickbacks and corrupt schemes carried out by the defendants. This amount is likely to increase as the investigation continues."

NO EFFORT SPARED

Fifa as the world governing body of football wants that money back and we are determined to get it no matter how long it takes.

GIANNI INFANTINO, Fifa president, on former officials accused of corruption during their tenures.

It will seek money from the US$190 million that the United States says has been forfeited by the 39 individuals and two companies facing charges.

Fifa named 20 former executive committee members and leading officials in regional confederations that it said had taken more than US$28 million in compensation, travel and other costs alone.

"Fifa as the world governing body of football wants that money back and we are determined to get it no matter how long it takes," said Gianni Infantino, who was elected as Fifa president on Feb 26.

"The convicted defendants abused the positions of trust they held at Fifa and other international football organisations and caused serious and lasting damage to Fifa, its member associations and the football community."

World Cup bids also face mounting scrutiny. South Africa has strongly denied paying a bribe to secure the 2010 World Cup Finals, but Fifa has backed suspicions raised by US investigators.

The claim says executive committee members - including Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago and Charles Blazer of the United States "sold their votes on multiple occasions".

It added that Warner's son Daryan and other unidentified suspects "engineered a US$10 million payoff in exchange for executive committee votes regarding where the 2010 Fifa World Cup would be hosted."

Warner allegedly disguised the payment "as support for the benefit of the 'African Diaspora' in the Caribbean region".

Fifa also told how Warner sold votes for the 2011 Fifa presidential election to Qatari official Mohamed Hammam, who has since been banned for life.

It said that US$353,537 was wired to a Caribbean Football Union (CFU) account controlled by Warner.

Since the scandal has erupted, Fifa has passed reforms controlling the powers of the executive committee and its members.

Experts have expressed doubts, however, on whether the changes will be enough to end misconduct.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 17, 2016, with the headline 'Fifa seeks payback from corrupt men over World Cup bribes'. Print Edition | Subscribe