Commentary

Soccer ties to Panama Papers are least of FIFA's problems

Much of the attention in the release of the Panama Papers -- a vast dump of data and documents leaked from a law firm Panama-based Mossack Fonseca specializing in creating offshore accounts -- has been on the international leaders found to have ties to accounts -- from Russian President Vladimir Putin to Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson.

But there is a soccer angle to the leaks. Michel Platini, Jerome Valcke and Eugenio Figueredo, all implicated in various FIFA scandals, had offshore accounts. In the case of Valcke, it was set up to purchase a yacht.

There is nothing illegal about holding offshore accounts and no suggestion of any wrongdoing by these FIFA officials, but the release of the Panama Papers has proved to be an embarrassment to FIFA.

The leaks reveal that Uruguayan Juan Pedro Damiani, who served as a FIFA ethics judge in former FIFA president Sepp Blatter's case, had a relationship via his family law firm with hundreds of companies.

The papers show Damiani's firm, JP Damiani & Asociados, worked with fellow Uruguayan Figueredo, indicted by U.S. authorities in May 2015, and Hugo Jinkis and his son Mariano, under house arrest in their native Argentina, where they are fighting extradition to the United States on the same corruption charges.

Again, nothing in the leaks shows illegal conduct by Damiani or his law firm, but his continuing work on the ethics committee after the May indictments has drawn the attention of -- well -- the ethics committee.

A spokesman   told the BBC:

"We confirm that on 19 March the investigatory chamber of the independent ethics committee was informed by the chairman of the adjudicatory chamber, Hans-Joachim Eckert, about becoming recently aware of a business relationship between the member of the adjudicatory chamber Juan Pedro Damiani, and Eugenio Figueredo Aguerre.

"After receiving the information Dr. Cornel Borbely, chairman of the investigatory chamber of the ethics committee, has immediately opened a preliminary investigation to review the allegations in question. Dr. Borbely is currently looking into said allegations in order to determine if there is a breach against the FIFA code of ethics and decide any further measures.‎"

The leaks are a distraction to FIFA, which would like to tell the story that the scandals of the Blatter era are behind it under new president Gianni Infantino. But they are just the tip of the iceberg.

Over the next few months and years, Swiss authorities will release the results of their investigation into suspicious bank transactions linked to various FIFA scandals. Until now, those indicted by U.S. authorities were those who had ties to the United States through transactions in U.S. banks or business activities on U.S. soil.

New names will counter the FIFA narrative that the scandals have been confined to the Americas and Concacaf and Conmebol officials seeking personal gain from regional television and marketing deals.

4 comments about "Soccer ties to Panama Papers are least of FIFA's problems".
  1. Ric Fonseca, April 4, 2016 at 11:10 p.m.

    Hey now! Just wanna clarify that there is NO RELATION to the law firm named above!!!

  2. Ginger Peeler, April 5, 2016 at 10:36 a.m.

    Thought about you when I saw this on the news yesterday. And, while my sister was born in Panama, it didn't sound like anything that would refer to you. I knew you were innocent!

  3. Ric Fonseca replied, April 5, 2016 at 2:37 p.m.

    Whew!!!! Thank you Ginger!!! As you know I am from Mexico, but there here's a tidbit of info: there are almost 875,000 people worldwide with this nurmane and 2/1 in Brasil, and 67K in Mexico. Saludos!

  4. Ginger Peeler, April 5, 2016 at 3:48 p.m.

    Yes. Fonseca was not an unusual name when I was a registrar in San Diego. However, I really did think of you when I heard the name on the news. I mean, you're the only Fonseca I know now. I have a friend here in Florida who is, honest and truly, named Bill Smith. Talk about a common name!

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