South American soccer officials 'given car code names' in bribery case
South American soccer officials who were alleged to have taken bribes in 'Fifa-gate', the wide-ranging US investigation into corruption in international soccer, were identifiable by car manufacturer code names, a US court has heard.
Witness Santiago Pena, who between 2009 and 2015 was a financial manager at Full Play, the Argentinian agency that is alleged to have been aware of, or engaged in, paying bribes to soccer officials for commercial and media rights to tournaments, including the Copa Libertadores, South America’s top clubs competition, said he kept an Excel spreadsheet of all individuals that benefited from the contracts.
Pena presented the Excel file in a New York court yesterday, which detailed payments made to people he identified as eight soccer officials from Conmebol, South American soccer's governing body.
He said each official was given a code name in the spreadsheet of different car brands:
Napout and Burga, along with Jose Maria Marin, former president of Brazil’s soccer federation, are on trial facing charges of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering. All three have pleaded not guilty.
Pena said the payments were kept off the books of the company and were paid out over time, to “get influence and get loyalty from the presidents.”
The payments included cash, wire transfers and, in the case of Napout, Paul McCartney concert tickets and a rental house in Uruguay worth tens of thousands of dollars, Pena said.
Esquivel's ledger listed a $750,000 payment owed for 'Q2022'. He pleaded guilty in November 2016 to racketeering conspiracy, three counts of wire fraud conspiracy and three counts of money laundering conspiracy. Chriboga's ledger listed a $500,000 payment owed for 'Q2022'. He was convicted in his own country in November 2016 of money laundering.
Neither Esquivel nor Chiriboga was on the Fifa executive committee that selected Qatar as the host of the 2022 World Cup in December 2010, and Pena said he did not know the purpose of those payments.
The owners of Full Play, Hugo Jinkis and his son Mariano, are among the 42 people and entities charged by USA in the probe that has centred on schemes in which $200 million in bribes and kickbacks concerning media and marketing rights to soccer across the Americas were alleged to have been paid to officials with links to Fifa. The Jinkises remain under house arrest in Argentina.
Fifa bans Fifa today banned three more officials for life from all soccer-related activities, in a move related to the US Department of Justice probe: Esquivel; Richard Lai, the former president of the Guam Football Association and a former member of the Fifa audit and compliance committee; and Julio Rocha, the former president of the Nicaraguan Football Association and a former Fifa development officer.
Lai pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud conspiracy and one count of wilful failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts in April. His guilty plea related, among others, to schemes in which he received bribes in exchange for his support in relation to the Fifa presidential elections and to gain control and influence within the Asian Football Confederation and Fifa.
Lai's case relates to Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, the Kuwaiti who has stepped down from all his soccer-related posts but remains a dominant figure in the Olympic movement, and who is identifiable as so-called ‘co-conspirator No 2’ in US court documents as being involved in the bribery of the Guam official.
Rocha pleaded guilty 11 months ago to racketeering conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy. His guilty plea related, among others, to schemes in which he received bribes in exchange for awarding contracts to companies for the media and marketing rights to Fifa World Cup qualifying matches.
Esquivel pleaded guilty a year ago to racketeering conspiracy, three counts of wire fraud conspiracy and three counts of money-laundering conspiracy. His guilty plea related, among others, to schemes in which he received bribes in exchange for awarding contracts to companies for the media and marketing rights to various tournaments, including the Copa América and Copa Libertadores.