U.S. authorities: FIFA executives were bribed to vote for winning Qatar and Russia World Cup bids

In an earlier year or a different world outlook, this would have been bombshell news in the world of soccer.

Still, it is quite extraordinary to have finally happened.

More than nine years after the  infamous meeting of the FIFA executive meeting in Zurich on Dec. 2, 2010, U.S. prosecutors formally charged that FIFA executive committee members had been bribed to vote for Russia and Qatar, winners of the 2018 and 2022 rights, respectively.

Indictment: May 20, 2015
Superseding indictment 1: Nov. 25, 2015
Superseding indictment 2: March 18, 2020

Russia crushed joint bids from Holland-Belgium and Spain-Portugal a bid from England in the second round of voting. Qatar defeated the United States, 14-8, in the fourth round after Australia, Japan and South Korea were eliminated in previous rounds.

Until now, much of the sweeping case that resulted in indictments of dozens of soccer officials and sports marketing executives have revolved around commercial and media rights in to events in South America and Concacaf, most notably the 2016 Copa Centenario organized in the United States.

Charges that three South American officials -- the late Julio Grondona of Argentina and Nicolas Leoz of Paraguay and Brazilian Ricardo Teixeira -- received bribes in connection with the Qatar 2022 vote first emerged in testimony by Alejandro Burzaco, a former Argentine television executive, in the 2017 trial of three other South Americans in U.S. district court in Brooklyn. Burzaco, a cooperating witness, testified that Leoz, Grondona and Teixeira had been paid to vote for Qatar.

Leoz, the former Conmebol president, was first indicted in May 2015 on charges of criminal activity dating to 1991 and died in September 2019 while under house arrest in Paraguay.

Teixeira, the former son--in-law of the late Joao Havelange, the longtime FIFA president (1974-98), was first indicted in December 2015 and remains in Brazil, which does not have an extradition treaty with the United States.

Grondona was the Argentine federation president for 36 years before his death in 2014, 10 months before the first indictments were issued by U.S. authorities in a sweeping raid of the Baur au Lac hotel, the preferred hotel of FIFA executives when they are in Zurich. As chairman of FIFA's Finance Committee, Grondona was a powerful force in FIFA business.

The FIFA bribery charges against former Concacaf president Jack Warner and Guatemalan Rafael Salguero, a former FIFA executive committee member, were new.

Warner has been fighting extradition in the courts in his native Trinidad & Tobago since 2015. Among the charges were receiving $10 million in connection with his vote and that of American Chuck Blazer, who died in 2017, and a a third FIFA executive committee member for South Africa in the 2010 World Cup hosting contest with Morocco.

Salguero pleaded guilty in 2016 to taking bribes in connection with media rights deals involving the Guatemalan federation of which he was president. He was credited at his sentencing with cooperating in the case. According to an unsealed transcript of his plea, he told a judge that he was approached in connection with the awarding of hosting rights to Russia for the 2018 World Cup but failed to collect on the bribe after the vote.

In the new superseding indictment issued on March 18, Warner is charged with receiving $5 million to vote for Russia “from companies based in the United States that performed work on behalf of the 2018 Russia World Cup bid,” while Salguero received $1 million for his Russia vote.

Indictment: 2018 and 2022 World Cup Vote Schemes
90. 1n or about and between 2009 and 2010, bid committees working on behalf of various nations prepared presentations in support of bids to host either the 2018 or 2022 World Cup. Ultimately, bid committees representing Russia, England, a joint bid by Spain and Portugal and a joint bid by the Netherlands and Belgium submitted bids to host the 2018 World Cup, and bid committees representing the United States, Qatar, Japan, South Korea and Australia submitted bids to host the 2022 World Cup.

On or about December 2, 2010, in Zurich, Switzerland, the FIFA executive committee selected the host sites for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, in separate rounds of voting for each edition of the tournament, with each executive committee member casting an equally weighted vote. Under the voting rules, if no bid received a majority of the votes cast, the bid receiving the fewest votes was eliminated and another vote was held. The process was repeated until one bid received an outright majority of the votes. Russia received a majority of votes in the second round of voting for the 2018 World Cup. Qatar received a majority of votes in the fourth round of voting for the 2022 World Cup.

Several executive committee members were offered or received bribes in connection with their votes. For example, the defendant RICARDO TEIXEIRA, Nicolas Leoz and Co-Conspirator #1 [editor's note: believed to he Grondona] were offered and received bribe payments in exchange for their votes in favor of Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup. In addition, the defendant JACK WARNER was promised and received bribe payments totaling $5 million and Rafael Salguero was promised a $1 million bribe in exchange for their votes in favor of Russia to host the 2018 World Cup.

On or about November 1, 2010, in the days before the payments to the defendant JACK WARNER began, WARNER's assistant received an email from an associate of Co-Conspirator #3 stating, among other things, "Kindly advise him that 'what was agreed is what is being done this, week.' Please also tell him that I am less worried about promises made to be fulfilled on my end than his ability to keep his promise when the time comes. Latter will cause me personally extreme trouble if my dear friend cannot keep his promise."

In or about and between November 2010 and April 2011, the defendant JACK WARNER received a total of approximately $5 million, via more than two dozen separate wire transfers, to an account he controlled at Republic Bank in Trinidad and Tobago in the name of the CFU [editor's note: Caribbean Football Union]. The wire transfers were sent from 10 different shell companies, all of which were registered and maintained bank accounts in offshore jurisdictions, including Cyprus, Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands, and were cleared through correspondent  accounts located in the United States. The shell companies used to pay WARNER formed part of a broader network of shell entities used to move money through densely layered transactions between and among offshore accounts. Several of the accounts used to wire money to WARNER received or sent wire transfers to or from companies based in the United States that performed work on behalf of the 2018 Russia World Cup bid.

95. On or about April 18, 2011, after the above-referenced wire transfers had been completed, Co-Conspirator #3 sent an email to the defendant JACK WARNER's assistant stating: "The 5 is complete (minus 70 bank charges). I will need a written confirmation along these lines: 'Dear friend. The transaction was completed as agreed (total of Sm) and all was received (minus minimal bank charges). Many thanks. J. ' "

Photo: Andy Mead/Icon Sportswire

9 comments about "U.S. authorities: FIFA executives were bribed to vote for winning Qatar and Russia World Cup bids".
  1. beautiful game, April 7, 2020 at 9:39 a.m.

    According to FIFA 'boss of all bosses' Infantino and his predecessor, soccer is apolitical. FIFA needs a throrough house cleaning sooner then later.

  2. Tom Mara replied, April 7, 2020 at 9:48 a.m.

    I agree, Infantino needs to be replaced. Qatar should worry that he will screw up the 2020 WC.

  3. John Soares, April 7, 2020 at 12:21 p.m.

    The only surprise here is...
    Some people are surprised!?

  4. Wooden Ships replied, April 7, 2020 at 10:57 p.m.

    Lol, true.

  5. Jogo Bonito, April 8, 2020 at 5:17 a.m.

    In other news:
    Trump Lied About Everything 
    I know - sorry to get political - couldn't resist.

    It's just that everyone knew this 30 seconds after the news was announced. I guess it's nice to see the bad guys get punished, but so much damage has been done as a result of these courupt men. I hope that the global soccer world leaders can learn from this and look into ways to use their massive revenues to help our game globally and not fall victim to the temptation of unscrupulous personal wealth. 

  6. Justus From SoCal, April 8, 2020 at 9:50 a.m.

    I always have wonderred what is wrong with soccer.  This is not a sport when you have so many cheaters up at the top.  It works it's way down to the club level.  "Pay to Play" "Favors" 
    "kickbacks" "loyalty" "Mr Singer" "$500,000" This is more like "The Game of Bribes."  Clubs are making deals with leagues so they have two top teams instead of one top team.  One league says they develop "world class players" and the other league develops "Elite Players."  What a joke of a sport this is.  We need to get head quarters out of Chicago and over to New Jersey and Soccer Town USA.  Please Hire Tab and hire a woman who cares about little girls and how they will be treated when their older woman. We need Bleach to clean up this mess.  It starts up at the top!!!

  7. humble 1, April 8, 2020 at 12:13 p.m.

    Thank you S.A. and Paul Kennedy.  FIFA is not sport - it is a professional organization.  Most of these officials never played the game - they are hacks.  Do you really think that a 'sport' administered world wide under Swiss Law will ever be about anything other than money?  It is also the 'marketing' side of the sport where we have a lot of curruption.  Read 'Sneaker Wars' and 'Red Card' if you really want to see where it started and how ugly it really gets.  Essentially you are dealing with quasi-criminal organizations - and when you are - you always have to think - if I take out the head of the snake - who take over?  Meanwhile, enjoy the game at the youth level, even pay-to-play, because as soon as you get to pro - it is not longer pure - it's about the money - it's a business.  Just look at the Olympics for a case in point.  Thanks again Paul.  Good stuff.    

  8. Bob Ashpole replied, April 9, 2020 at 8:43 a.m.

    Very good points.

  9. Santiago 1314, April 10, 2020 at 4:59 p.m.

    I see who took the Bribes... But did I miss the Indictments against the People that PAID the Bribes.???  Seems like a Logical Question.

Next story loading loading..

Discover Our Publications