Former Swiss bank executive Jorge Luis Arzuaga, while pleading guilty Thursday to money-laundering charges connected to the investigations of FIFA and its officials, admitted he established accounts and deposited funds for the late Julio Grondona, former president of the Argentine Football Association (AFA) and ex-chairman of FIFA’s Finance Committee.
Arzuaga, 56, said the bribes paid to Grondona and other FIFA executives could be as much as $25 million. The funds came from a TV-rights marketing company, Torneos, which is based in Argentina. Arzuaga admitted he received $1.046 million for his role in the bribery, and has agreed to return the money.
The indictment of Arzuaga does not specify Grondona by name but cites exorbitant payments made to “Soccer official #1” from Torneos
in exchange for TV rights to soccer matches and competitions. Said official is described as “a high-ranking official of FIFA, Conmebol and the AFA,” who died in 2014.
Grondona began his life in high-level soccer in 1956 when he and his brother, Hector, founded Arsenal Futbol Club in the Avellanenda section of Buenos Aires, where they grew up. He served as club president for nearly 20 years and after a brief stint with neighboring club Independiente, assumed the AFA presidency in 1979.
He joined the FIFA executive committee in 1988 and developed a close alliance with Sepp Blatter, then the general secretary who took over from Joao Havelange as FIFA president in 1998. The two worked closely on the FIFA Finance Committee and in other capacities as vast sums flowed to Zurich from sponsors, marketing companies, and rights brokers.
Grondona died in 2014 at 82. He had already been identified by investigations launched by the U.S. Department of Justic as one of the former FIFA executives who wielded the most power and received the most money via corrupt schemes, but substantial details of FIFA’s crooked operations emerged from Arzuaga’s plea.
In the indictment, Arzuaga’s role is traced back to 2010 while he was employed by an unnamed Swiss bank. He was approached by Alejandro Burzaco, the president of Torneos, and the unnamed head of another marketing company to open a Swiss bank account for Grondona.
To secure TV and marketing rights to multiple South American soccer competitions, Burzaco paid millions in dollars in bribes to Arzuaga and other powerful officials. In April of last year, Burzaco, along with former Concacaf president Jeffrey Webb and Brazilian intermediary Jose Margulies pleaded guilty charges of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies.
The Swiss office of the attorney general (OAG) said in a statement it too had concluded criminal proceedings against Arzuaga for the offenses committed in Switzerland: document forgery and violation of the duty to report money laundering.
His payments for those offenses, $650,000, will be forfeited to the Swiss government. The OAG said it is continuing 25 separate investigations into alleged corruption committed by senior figures within FIFA and has 178 reports of alleged money laundering.