FIFA, the international soccer governing agency, admitted Wednesday that its officers have accepted bribes in exchange for World Cup hosting bids, and has demanded that the United States return tens of millions of dollars it has seized from officials who have accepted bribes, WBBM (Chicago) is reporting.
For years, FIFA and its officials have been at the center of allegations of widespread corruption — most notably, that its officials have accepted bribes in exchange for World Cup hosting bids. In May, 2015, according to CNN, the United States arrested several high-ranking FIFA officials in a far-reaching corruption probe. Sixteen more FIFA officials were arrested in December, 2015.
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Among those arrested were Jeffrey Webb, at the time the president of CONCACAF, the FIFA-affiliated agency that manages soccer in North America and the Caribbean; Nicolas Leoz, president of CONMEBOL (South America); American soccer power broker Chuck Blazer; and former FIFA Vice President and Trinidad & Tobago soccer power broker Jack Warner, among others.
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The United States Justice Department seized the assets — tens of millions of dollars of alleged bribe money — from the accused.
In court documents filed Wednesday, FIFA demanded that money back.
In a statement, FIFA President Gianni Infantino said that the actions of the individuals arrested in the World Cup bribe probe are individuals acting in their own capacity, and that the money seized not only belongs to FIFA, but was intended to develop soccer programs throughout the world.
“The convicted defendants abused the positions of trust they held at FIFA and other international football organizations and caused serious and lasting damage to FIFA. The monies they pocketed belonged to global football and were meant for the development and promotion of the game. 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.”
Specifically, FIFA wants the following monies returned.
- $28.2 million to cover flights, meals, and other expenses that FIFA paid to officials who have either pleaded guilty or are currently awaiting trial in the corruption probe.
- $10 million in bribes taken during South Africa’s bid for the 2010 World Cup.
- Unspecified money to cover the legal bills of FIFA executives currently undergoing corruption probes in both Switzerland and the United States.
- Unspecified money to cover damages to FIFA’s reputation.
“These dollars were meant to build football fields, not mansions and pools; to buy football kits, not jewelry and cars; and to fund youth player and coach development, not to underwrite lavish lifestyles for football and sports marketing executives.”
It appears that FIFA, as an organization, is not the only soccer body interested in getting some of that alleged bribe money back. Miami-based CONCACAF, which is affiliated with FIFA, is also interested in getting “restitution” from the Justice Department for seized bribe money. CONCACAF, at one time at the heart of the bribery corruption probe, has passed reforms, gotten rid of corrupt officials, and is trying to rebuild. Current CONCACAF officials believe that having the seized money returned to them can help with its rebuilding efforts.
As of this writing, Swiss authorities are also investigating allegations of corruption and bribery among FIFA officials in the decisions to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar, respectively. No arrests have been made in that case, nor have any monies been seized.
Do you think FIFA should get its alleged bribe money back? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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