The one of the major breaks Federal authorities got in their case against soccer executives from across Concacaf and Conmebol came when Brazilian Jose Hawilla
, the Traffic founder, became a
Hawilla, who suffered from respiratory problems, died on Friday at the age of 74 in Sao Paulo. Jose
Hawilla, who began his career as a radio reporter working the sidelines at soccer matches, got
into soccer in a serious way after buying Traffic, which sold advertising at Brazilian bus stops. He soon turned it into a sports business, hooking up with the Brazilian soccer federation, selling
rights to sideboards at national team games.
Traffic made a fortune for Hawilla, who bought the commercial rights to the Copa America and Copa Libertadores, and he moved to Florida in
1992 in anticipation of the U.S. market taking off with the 1994 World Cup. Those opportunities included providing closed-circuit broadcasts for Latin American matches into bars across the United
States and buying the commercial rights to the Gold Cup in the United States. Traffic later became involved in pro soccer, investing in clubs in the USL and becoming an investor in the breakaway
Hawilla recognized the key to Traffic's business was renewing contracts for below-market prices by paying kickbacks to the executives whose soccer organizations held the rights.
In 2013, Federal authorities arrested him on charges of lying to agents and he soon became an informant. Even more than Chuck Blazer
, who turned the FBI on to Hawilla, the Brazilian
was the key cooperating witness that would lead to indictments for activities long after Blazer, also under indictment, had gotten out of soccer in late 2011.
As part of his plea
agreement, Hawilla agreed to forfeit more than $152 million. That agreement became public in 2015 when indictments were released following the arrests of FIFA executives in Zurich.
Hawilla was allowed to return to Sao Paulo in 2018 after the trial of three South Americans ended in New York.