It’s an old joke, better heard than read, which I first heard from Irish comedian/actor Niall Toibin, who used it to showcase his mastery of Irish regional accents. The gist is that the Dublin Corporation put some public works out to tender. They got three bids. The first was £3,000 (which really dates the joke) from a Dublin builder, the second £6,000 from a Cavan builder. The third was from a Cork builder who boldly bids “nine thousand pounds!!” When asked by the Corporation officials to break this down, he declares: “Three thousand for you…………………… three thousand for me and we give the job to the Dublin fella.” Toibin adds, knowingly: “What I love about that story is that some people think it’s a joke.” Alas, the recent Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) indictment of senior Fifa officials reveals their modus operandi to have been “Three thousand for you…three thousand for me and we give the job to the Dublin fella” on a global, multi-million dollar scale.
The indictment has been a public document for two-and-a-half months (I’m a SLOW researcher). And much has developed from it, including the potential end of Joseph S Blatter’s Fifa presidency, although seasoned, educated Blatter and Fifa observers will “believe that when they see it.” Yet its power to shock on in-depth reading remains. It’s the casual manner of the conspiracies which remains most shocking. “Let’s bid for the commercial rights to a tournament,” someone suggests. “Pay me a bribe,” someone else suggests. “OK,” someone else-again agrees. The repugnant Jack Warner, the Trinidadian multi-purpose crook, is just one of 14 defendants and 25 “co-conspirators” from regional football federations and “sports marketing companies (SMCs)” on the make and take.
The indictment is, conceivably, far from the whole story of Fifa financial corruption, as the American authorities can only intervene in any allegedly criminal “enterprise” which has taken place, directly or indirectly, even for a nanosecond on American territories. Mind you, as Rupert Cornwell wrote in the Independent newspaper on May 30th:
None of the…officials…are American citizens. Most of the alleged crimes did not involve Americans. Nor were they on US soil at the time. That, however, (ignores) the extraterritorial powers uniquely claimed by US law…Channel a single transaction through the US banking system, communicate just once on the US phone system or via an American internet provider, or even make a layover at Kennedy airport during the period of your presumed wrongdoing…that is jurisdiction enough.
It is as if the FBI could get involved if one of the defendants ever bought a Friends box set with any of the proceeds of what the indictment terms “specified unlawful activity.” However, the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids and their protagonists barely feature because almost none of their work took place in America’s empire. Qatari former Asian Confederation president and Fifa vice-president Mohammed Bin Hammam appears briefly as “co-conspirator #7,” but only because the repugnant Warner was involved in his 2011 quest for the Fifa presidency and only then because of the brief involvement of Bank of America and representatives from Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands federations, both American territories.
Alas, the need for an American link left Blatter undisturbed. You suspect he has covered most of his tracks, his drawn-out presidential resignation could be designed to facilitate covering the rest and in 2011, that oxymoronic concept, the Fifa Ethics Committee, cleared him of involvement in or knowledge of this part the indictment. By contrast, four defendants have already pleaded guilty; Warner’s sons, Daryll and Daryan (Jack lacked imagination on the child-naming front), American former Fifa vice-president Chuck Blazer, Traffic Sports, a Brazil-based SMC central to the allegations, and Traffic’s founder/owner Jose Hawilla. Daryll committed mortgage fraud and currency offences known as “structuring.” Daryan also dodgily structured, and operated World Cup ticket schemes/scams; just like his dad before him, bless.
Blazer evaded tax, while not declaring considerable, ahem, interests in overseas bank accounts. And he admitted his roles in bribery schemes (including the 1998 and 2010 World Cup venue votes) and receiving and/or organising all sorts of illicit payments, alongside Warner, who is contesting allegations about his roles in those very schemes. Awkward for Warner, that. Hawilla/Traffic, meanwhile, indulged in “multiple schemes…involving the offer, acceptance, payment, and receipt of undisclosed and illegal payments, bribes, and kickbacks.” Many of the recently-arrested Fifa officials are contesting allegations about their roles in those schemes. Awkward for them, that.
However, there’s plenty left to enjoy/endure. The indictment refreshingly lacks, though is not entirely free of, legalese, with moments of attention-grabbing clarity, e.g. the concept of Fifa and other football organisations as victims “deprived (of their) rights to honest and faithful services.” The roles of Fifa and its “constituent organisations”, are carefully and helpfully detailed, as are those of the SMCs and various rights holders with which Fifa and others contracted. We get potted career histories of the defendants and co-conspirators; Central and South American national federation presidents, SMC “controlling principals” and Traffic executives/associates, plus an overview of the “initial…and…continued corruption of the enterprise.” The paragraph entitled “Scandal and the resignations of Jack Warner and Nicolas Leoz” merely marks the transfer between the two.
Since the 1990s, “the defendants and their co-conspirators relied heavily on the United States financial system.” And “this reliance was significant and sustained and was one of the central methods…through which they promoted and concealed their schemes.” The cost/value of football’s “media and marketing rights” had burgeoned since he World Cup became big business during the Brazilian Joao Havelange’s 24-year Fifa presidency (1974-1998). And under Blatter, himself an ex-Adidas lackey, such business got bigger. Sadly and inevitably, so did the scope for bribes and kickbacks. Many international football and SMC high-ranking officials were willing and able to take full personal financial advantage. And many more, largely unindicted, were willing and able to facilitate this through inaction. Most schemes concerned Central and South American tournaments, notably the “Copa America (CA),” the South American nations’ tournament run by “Conmebol,” the oddly-acronymed “Confederacion Sudamericana de Futbol,” (“Consubol”?). Particular focus was on the 2016 “Copa America Centenario” commemorating 100 years since the first Copa America, as it takes place in the USA, an occasional CA invitee and the most lucrative sports rights market.
Elsewhere, media rights to World Cup qualifying matches attracted regional federation presidents. And there were new revelations about already-exposed schemes, concerning Fifa’s 2010 World Cup venue vote and its 2011 presidential election. The process followed a pattern. For example, “In…1986” Hawilla, co-conspirator #2 (CC2) in this indictment, negotiated with Conmebol president Leoz to “acquire the media and marketing rights” to the 1987, 89 and 91 CAs. In 1991, Traffic gained the tournament’s “exclusive worldwide commercial rights” until 1997. Leoz, however, “did not sign at that time.” And the indictment’s wording perfectly summarises their mentality:
“Leoz told CC2…that CC2 would make a lot of money from the rights…& that Leoz did not think it was fair that he (Leoz) did not also make money. Leoz…would not sign the contract if CC2 did not agree to pay him a bribe. After CC2 agreed to make the payment, Leoz signed the contract. CC2 caused…a six-figure US dollar payment to be made to an account designated by Leoz.”
Perish the thought that it stopped there. Leoz “began demanding additional bribe payments” for each, biennial, CA. And CC2 agreed to each payment and “caused them to be made” until 2011, total payments which, unsurprisingly, “ultimately reached…seven figures.” Leoz was a trendsetter. Venezuela hosted the 2007 “edition.” So its federation president, Rafael Esquivel, solicited $1m payments from each of two Traffic co-conspirators. The second, in 2011, was in part a “kickback” from (i.e. a percentage of) “the profits CC2 had earned in connection with the 2007 tournament.” The gravy train kept-a-rolling. The rights went to Argentine SMC Full Play Group in 2010 but Traffic successfully disputed this in court, “alleging that the agreement breached” their 2001 contract for the rights and/or options on the rights until 2023. So instead they were shared by the companies under the auspices of a new company, Datisa. And so it began again.
Concacaf, the then Warner-controlled Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football, awarded “Traffic USA,” (TUSA) the rights to its nations’ tournament, the Gold Cup, and “caused hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribe payments to be made to…Warner and CC1” – Blazer, Concacaf’s then general secretary, “whose fortunes,” in more ways than one, “rose with Warner’s.” Warner also took his cut of the Caribbean Football Union World Cup qualifiers’ “associated” rights. “Rather than paying the full value…to CFU and its member associations, TUSA executives, at Warner’s request, diverted a substantial portion…to an account controlled by Warner.”
In the Copa do Brasil (CDB) scheme, “CC11, a high-ranking Fifa, Conmebol and CBF (Brazilian federation) official, solicited and received bribes from CC2 in connection with the…CDB media rights.” “To obtain the contract…CC6 agreed to pay an annual bribe to CC11, as CC2 had done in the past.” And bribes “increased when other CBF officials…requested (them) as well.” Eduardo Li, Costa Rica’s Federation president, requested “a six-figure bribe…for his agreement to award (rights contracts) to TUSA.” Nicaraguan federation president Julio Rocha “also participated in this scheme.” “CC18, a Fifa official…involved in facilitating the negotiations, also asked for a payment for himself,” being “aware of the payment to (Rocha).” All answers were “Yep.” Nine defendants and co-conspirators, “among others,” participated in the “Conmebol/Concacaf Copa America Centenario scheme,” as “officials who had solicited and/or were to receive bribes.” As did Cayman Islands FA general secretary, Costa Takkas, “a citizen of… the United Kingdom.” Tsk.
One headline-grabber, the “2010 Fifa World Cup vote scheme,” involved Warner, Blazer, a “high-ranking South African World Cup bid committee official,” “a briefcase containing bundles of US currency in $10,000 stacks in a hotel room” and “$10m” from South Africa’s Government to Warner’s CFU “to ‘support the African diaspora.’” This $10m may have sealed some fates. “In the months and years after the vote,” the indictment says, “(Blazer) periodically asked Warner about the status of the $10m payment.” I.e., “where’s my cut?” as Warner had promised Blazer “a $1m portion.” Warner took four years to start accessing the $10m, he hardly needed it with son Daryan’s ticketing “business” booming. He “caused a substantial portion…to be diverted for his personal use” while $1.4m went “to a Trinidadian businessman…whose identity is known to the grand jury…and (his) large supermarket chain in Trinidad.”
Only “during the three years following” did Warner give Blazer “over $750k in partial payment” of what he “had earlier promised.” However, Warner being Warner, “(Blazer) never received the balance of the promised $1m payment.” Months later, Blazer was working with the FBI. The events may have been connected. Some of the monetary amounts were frankly huge and if, to pick a top Fifa official PURELY…AT…RANDOM, Blatter wanted to halt the deceptions, halted they would have been. For instance, the total contract price for the rights to the four CAs between now and 2023 was $352.5m. Total bribes on top? $110m.
That sort of money took a lot of concealing/laundering, as suggested by the criminal counts’ regular references to transfers of money “from places in the United States to and through places outside the United States and to places in the United States from and through places outside the United States.” As per, Warner flamboyantly denied everything and, as he did when he had to step down from all his football-related offices in 2011, promised that if he goes down, he’s taking plenty with him. Four years ago, he promised; “In the next couple of days you will see a football tsunami that will hit Fifa and the world that will shock you. The time has come when I must stop playing dead so you’ll see it by now and Monday.” Monday never came.
Now we await “a comprehensive and detailed series of documents including cheques and corroborating statements (which) reveals my knowledge about certain transactions at FIFA including but not limited to…Blatter.” And, in keeping with Warner’s extreme climate and fatalistic themes, he further promised that “not even death” (presumably his) “will stop the avalanche that is coming,” adding with surely unintended irony that “the die is cast.” Yet this could prove problematic. In 2012, an “Integrity Committee” was set up by the Concacaf regime which replaced him. You can check below for hints as to that regime’s credibility. But its report made damning reading for Warner and Blazer (I sense another article coming on) and on January 21st 2013, the committee sought all relevant Concacaf documentation Warner may have had.
Eight days later, he informed the committee that “I have no documents or records in any form in my possession or otherwise.” This has subsequently mutated into him having “destroyed all his paperwork,” which is rather a different proposition as his Fifa “secrets” are probably more damaging. However, Warner being Warner, it’s almost certainly all b***ocks. Jeffrey Webb, Warner’s successor, as Concacaf chief, defendant and, apparently, arsehole liar, was the first defendant to agree to extradition, pleading not guilty and grabbing headlines by securing bail with a combination of Rolex watches, flash cars and his wife’s diamond wedding ring. Wonder where he got the money…
Webb appeared before the Brooklyn federal courthouse last Friday and is due in court again on October 9th. Two bribers will follow on September 18th. One-time TUSA president Aaron Davidson and Argentine/Italian Alejandro Burzaco, an SMC controlling principal who presented himself to Italian authorities in June after Interpol got involved before being flown to New York. Meanwhile, Rocha became the first Fifa defendant to follow Webb’s example, sort of. He agreed extradition to his native Nicaragua. If America objects, the Swiss authorities will reportedly choose where he ends up.
The fun, it appears, is only just beginning. With so much money about, it is little wonder that “the corruption of the enterprise flourished.” But the ease with which it flourished and was allowed to flourish and the simplicity of the schemes still shocks. All someone such as Leoz had to say was that he “did not think it was fair that he did not also make money” and he was allowed to make it. It really was “three thousand for you…three thousand for me and we give the job to the Dublin fella” on a global, multi-million dollar scale.
You can follow Mark on Twitter by clicking here.
You can follow Twohundredpercent on Twitter by clicking here.
You can send a briefcase of used fivers to Twohundredpercent through Facebook by clicking here.