Fifa demands huge sums of damages from disgraced officials

Fifa on Wednesday demanded tens of millions of US dollars in damages from ex-officials.

A FIFA sign is seen outside the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, in this file picture taken December 17, 2015. Soccer's governing body FIFA said on March 16, 2016 that members of its executive committee had in the past sold their votes in World Cup hosting contests, including for the tournament held in South Africa in 2010. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich/Files
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Fifa on Wednesday 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 US authorities on the scope of soccer corruption, football’s governing body openly accused South Africa of paying a $10 million (dh36.7 million) bribe to secure votes for the 2010 World Cup.

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

World football is at the centre of multiple inquiries into bribery and misconduct and the award of World Cup tournaments.

On top of 39 individuals facing charges seven in the United States over more than $200 million in bribes, its former leader Sepp Blatter and his heir apparent Michel Platini have both been banned.

Fifa acknowledged the widespread graft of recent decades in its most explicit manner yet. It accused the tainted officials of “brazen corruption”.

“By corrupting these tournaments, matches, sponsorships, and other football affairs through their backroom deals and secret payoffs, the defendants dragged Fifa into their sordid misconduct and tarnished the Fifa brand,” said the Fifa demand for restitution made to US authorities.”

Fifa said in a statement 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.”

It will seek money from the $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 $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 February 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,” Infantino added.

The Fifa claim said the corrupt officials “betrayed their duties and sold their powers to the highest bidder.”

Many of the bribes were paid for lucrative television and sponsorship deals in Central and South America. Most of the defendants are from this region.

World Cup bids also face mounting scrutiny however.

South Africa has strongly denied paying a bribe to secure the 2010 World Cup. But Fifa backed suspicions raised by US investigators.

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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 said that Warner (who is fighting extradition to the United States) and Blazer (who has made a plea deal with US authorities, and admitted his crimes and pleaded guilty), Warner’s son Daryan Warner and other unidentified suspects “engineered a $10 million payoff in exchange for executive committee votes regarding where the 2010 Fifa World Cup would be hosted.”

Daryan Warner was “his father’s bagman” and collected “a briefcase with $10,000 in cash from a high-ranking South African bid committee official” which he took back to his father, said the document.

“Ultimately, given defendant Warner’s strong illicit ties to the South African bid committee, the South Africans offered a more attractive bribe of $10 million in exchange for Warner’s, Blazer’s, and a third executive committee member’s votes,” it added.

Warner disguised the payment “as support for the benefit of the ‘African Diaspora’ in the Caribbean region.”

“They disguised and funnelled the bribe money through the financial accounts of Fifa, member associations, and the 2010 Fifa World Cup local organizing committee.”

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

Fifa said that $353,537 (dh1.29 million) was wired to a Caribbean Football Union account controlled by Warner.

After Bin Hammam addressed a CFU conference, “each attendee was directed to a room where they were handed an envelope and instructed not to discuss the envelope or its contents with anyone.

“The envelopes each had $40,000 (dh146,921) in cash inside. Defendant Warner explained that although these funds had been disguised as payments from CFU, they were in fact payments from Bin Hammam.”

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.

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