FIFA to share $ 200m payment from Justice Department

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FIFA, the governing body of world football, and two other organizations in the Americas are set to receive around $ 200 million in compensation from the United States government after the Department of Justice classified them as victims of the scandal. corruption that toppled most of their top leaders in 2015.

The repayment will begin with an upfront payment of $ 32.3 million in confiscated funds, the Justice Department said on Tuesday, but prosecutors approved a plan that could allow football organizations to receive up to $ 201 million .

The return of the money comes six years after a sprawling prosecution exposed decades of corruption on an astonishing scale, with millions of dollars diverted from sport and into the pockets of global football officials and men. ‘business. It comes five years after FIFA, claiming to be corrupt but not corrupt, began asking for a share of the money US officials were collecting in the case.

Refunds will be made to FIFA, the governing body of the sport; CONCACAF, the organization that oversees football in North America, Central America and the Caribbean; and CONMEBOL, which governs sport in South America. Former leaders of these organizations, as well as those of national football federations across the Americas, had been implicated in the scandal in great detail. More than 50 people and companies have been indicted in the case since 2015, and dozens have pleaded guilty.

The Justice Department’s decision suggested a measure of restored confidence in the management of FIFA, even though the money came with conditions: the funds must be confined to a foundation and directed towards the development of football around the world. , according to Tuesday’s announcement.

In a statement Tuesday, FIFA President Gianni Infantino thanked the US authorities for their “swift and efficient approach to carrying out these cases, as well as for their confidence in general”.

Such spending parameters have featured in other major corruption cases, such as the United Nations Oil-for-Food case, in which the Justice Department specifically allocated restitution money to a development fund in Iraq. .

As US authorities announced their criminal case in 2015, and dozens of powerful officials and marketers pleaded guilty to racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy charges, prosecutors made it clear that ‘ they viewed football organizations as victims who had been co-opted by dishonest operators. .

Lawyers for FIFA and regional confederations have fought harder to manage the perceptions of prosecutors and the public, seeking to keep organizations away from accused criminals; cooperate with the authorities; and consolidate the place of sports organizations as powerless victims of fraud by their leaders.

In a 2016 court case, FIFA lawyers argued that the organization lost at least $ 28 million paid to 20 football officials over 12 years, in addition to incalculable other costs.

CONMEBOL has already collected millions of dollars through other channels. In July, he said he had received more than $ 1.7 million from Swiss authorities, money that was in the personal account of one of his former leaders. This was in addition to the $ 55 million the organization said it has already recovered from the accounts of other former officials.

In the years since it emerged in a 2015 luxury hotel search, the FIFA case, one of America’s largest prosecutions when it was first announced, progressed even as the Public attention to its procedures and to corruption in the world of football has declined.

Just this week, Reynaldo Vasquez, the former Salvadoran football official who was indicted in 2015, pleaded guilty in federal court in Brooklyn. Earlier this year, prosecutors announced that Swiss bank Julius Baer had agreed to pay more than $ 79 million in penalties for its role in money laundering in the scandal.

Despite this, years later, key figures have still not been convicted or sentenced, and some former officials are still at large. One of them, Marco Polo del Nero, the former head of the Brazilian football federation, was recently registered as appearing to run the affairs of the federation despite FIFA’s lifetime ban on working in organized football. .

When announcing the new conviction this week, U.S. law enforcement officials telegraphed that they are still keeping an eye on the sport, and Tuesday’s announcement underscored this.

“From the start,” Acting U.S. Attorney-at-Law for the Eastern District of New York Jacquelyn M. Kasulis said in a statement, “this investigation and prosecution has been focused on prosecution and restitution. ill-gotten gains to those who work for the benefit of the beautiful game.

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