FIFA Gate: details of the biggest corruption scandal in football history involving Russia and Qatar

With the World Cup in Qatar already played and after years of investigations and accusations, the corruption plot behind the World Cup awards to Russia and Qatar seems clearer every day.

Most of the evidence was gathered by the United States Department of Justice, which in 2020 published complaints linked to the case that broke out in 2015 and exposed the dark operations that existed within the Mother House of world soccer.

In that occasion, for the first time, two countries formally targeted the payment of bribes: Russia and Qatar. As revealed by the specialized journalist Ken Bensinger, It was Latin American leaders who received millions of dollars to vote for these two nations as venues for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

“Several members of the executive committee were offered and received bribes linked to their votes. For example, Ricardo Teixeira, Nicolás Leoz and Co-Conspirator 1 were offered and received payments in exchange for their votes in favor of Qatar, to host the 2022 World Cup, “says the prosecutor’s document. It is worth remembering that the identity of “co-conspirator 1” was never revealed, although due to the information in the file it can be deduced that he is Julio Humberto Grondonalate president of the Argentine Football Association (AFA) and former vice president of FIFA.

Gianni Infantino, President of FIFA, with Vladimir Putin, President of Russia (Reuters)
Gianni Infantino, President of FIFA, with Vladimir Putin, President of Russia (Reuters) (POOL /)

Teixeira was president of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) between 1989 and 2012 and his name is not new to the cause. In 2017, he was banned for life by FIFA after being found guilty of accepting improper payments from television companies that sought to keep the rights to Conmebol competitions. He remains in Brazil, which has no extradition treaty with the United States.

For his part, the Paraguayan Nicolás Leoz was the boss of Conmebol between 1986 and 2013 and died in August 2019. His departure from the South American entity occurred after being found guilty of accepting bribes in the early 2000s by companies seeking to televise tournaments that belonged to the Confederation he presided over. He died in Paraguay last year while under house arrest and fighting extradition to the United States.

“Besides, defendant Jack Warner was promised and received bribes totaling $5 million and Rafael Salguero was promised $1 million in exchange for his pro-Russia votesto be the host of the 2018 World Cup”, the letter assures.

Warner, from Trinidad and Tobago, was vice president and member of the FIFA Executive Committee, president of CONCACAF and president of the Caribbean Football Union. He could be extradited to the US. While salgueroformer Guatemalan soccer president and former member of the FIFA Executive Committee, pleaded guilty to accepting bribes in December 2018 before the US courts that are conducting the trial.

It is worth remembering that The elections in Russia and Qatar were held in December 2010 and were historic because never before had two venues been chosen at the same time. In addition, since that meeting of the Executive Committee that several European federations, such as the English one, pointed out that there had been black money in the votes.

This is the first time that the FIFA Gate cause points to this type of bribery, since the ones indicated had always been television companies such as Full Play and Tournaments, among others. But here is also a new episode.

According to The New York Timesthe accusations against the South Americans are similar to those made by Alejandro Burzaco, a former Argentine television executive who became a prosecution witness after being named as a central figure in the soccer corruption case. He said at the trial of three other officials in New York in 2017 that Leoz, Grondona and Teixeira had been paid to vote for Qatar.

Julio Humberto Grondona died months before the FIFA Gate (NA) was uncovered
Julio Humberto Grondona died months before the FIFA Gate (NA) was uncovered

Prosecutors have also indicted two former Century Fox executives, one of the most important media companies in the world, which is currently part of the Disney conglomerate. Hernan Lopez and Carlos Martinez They were in charge of the company’s business in Latin America and in 2017 they had been implicated in the trial and must appear this Thursday before Brooklyn federal judge Pamela Chen.

FIFA awarded Fox the rights to broadcast the 2026 World Cup without going through an open bidding process.

This block of complaints also includes the former CEO of the Spanish company Imagina and the Argentine company Full Play, also accused of criminal conspiracy.

“The indictments released today reflect the prosecution’s ongoing commitment to rooting out corruption at the highest levels of international football and in companies committed to promoting and broadcasting sports,” New York District Attorney Richard Donoghue said in a statement. Sports executives “must understand that they will be brought to justice if they use the US financial system for corrupt purposes”, he added.

In the framework of the FIFA scandal, which broke out in 2015, the US government has charged a total of 45 people and to several sports companies of more than 90 crimes and of paying or accepting more than 200 million dollars in bribes.

Of the 45 defendants, five have died. A total of 22 pleaded guilty, and of those only six have been sentenced. A dozen are still in their countries, where they were prosecuted by local courts or are at large while fighting extradition. Only three hierarchs who pleaded not guilty went to trial. The former head of Brazilian soccer José María Marín and the former head of Conmebol, the Paraguayan Juan Ángel Napout, were found guilty and sentenced to prison terms. Former Peruvian soccer boss Manuel Burga was acquitted.

Russia has also faced accusations of improper bidding behavior. Russian officials told a FIFA panel that investigated their bid that they could not hand over the computers used during the process to a FIFA investigator because they had all been destroyed.

Keep reading:

The harsh statement from the United States Department of Justice about FIFA Gate: “These men have met the FBI”

New scandal in world football: the Platini case could involve Infantino, is Qatar 2022 in danger?

FIFA Gate: behind the scenes of bribery in South America to anoint Qatar 2022