The US Department of Justice indicted an additional sixteen Latin American soccer officials on corruption charges, shedding more light on a complex network involving multiple sports media companies that agreed to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to the region’s most powerful soccer brokers.
US officials first unveiled an indictment against nine International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) officials and five businessmen involved in the soccer world in May 2015. This latest indictment, made public on December 3, suggests that the US law enforcement is continuing to collect key evidence from informants and others who agree to collaborate with investigators.
The result is a damning set of accusations against Latin America’s most powerful soccer officials, many of whom are serving top roles within FIFA. Seven defendents based in Central America were indicted, alongside another nine from South America.
The gist of the case against the defendants involves sports media and marketing companies based in Brazil, the US, and Argentina that paid hefty bribes, in exchange for securing rights to broadcast and promote Latin American soccer games. In multiple cases, US banks were used to transfer the funds to bank accounts in Central America or elsewhere, with Panama being one commonly used transit point for the dirty money.
Below is a summary of what the US Department of Justice (DOJ) indictment has to say about the soccer caudillos involved in the corruption schemes.
Reynaldo Vasquez is the former head of El Salvador’s soccer federation, which has also asked the Salvadoran Attorney General Office to open an investigation into corruption.
Alongside other conspirators, Vasquez reportedly accepted at least two six-figure bribes from Miami-based sports marketing company Media World. Another three Salvadoran conspirators are mentioned in the indictment, but their names are not revealed. However, one of them is described as a current top official of El Salvador’s soccer federation.
Up until April 2015, Rafael Salguero was a member of the FIFA Executive Committee. Alongside Ariel Alvarado and Alfredo Hawit, Salguero is accused of accepting $450,000 in bribes from Full Play Group S.A., a sports marketing group based in Argentina. Alongside Brayan Jimenez and Hector Trujillo, he also accepted a six-figure bribe from Miami-based sports marketing company Media World; as well as an additional $100,000 bribe from the two Argentine owners of Full Play.
Brayan Jimenez has served as the president of Guatemala’s soccer federation since 2010, and also served on the FIFA committee for fair play and social responsibility at one point. Alongside Rafael Salguero and Hector Trujillo, he met with representatives of sports marketing company Media World in Florida and agreed to split a six-figure bribe from the company in exchange for Guatemala’s soccer media rights.
At another point, Jimenez accepted a $10,000 bribe from the Media World executive, in exchange for agreeing to allow Guatemala’s national team to play a friendly match in Lima, Peru.
The indictment notes that in July 2015, Jimenez met with Trujillo and the Media World executive in Chicago in order to discuss the bribes. Jimenez started off the meeting by asserting, “Nothing should be said over the telephone. Nothing… Nothing! Nothing!”
Hector Trujillo currently sits on Guatemala’s Constitutional Court. Since 2010, he has also served as the general secretary of Guatemala’s soccer federation. He is accused of splitting a six-figure bribe from Miami-based sports marketing company Media World alongside the other Guatemalan defendents.
When meeting with a Media World Executive and the other Guatemalan defendents in Chicago in July 2015, Trujillo remarked that his bribes had been paid to a construction company controlled by a third party. A fake contract to that construction company had been drawn up, in order to disguise the origins of that money. This manipulation of construction contracts is fairly typical of how corrupt elites do business in Guatemala, as InSight Crime has previously reported.
Trujillo was arrested by US federal agents after his cruise ship docked in Florida on the early morning of December 5, the New York Times reported.
Alfredo Hawit served as the head of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) between June 2011 to May 2012. He took on the role once again after his predecessor was detained in May 2015, as part of the US investigation into FIFA corruption.
On December 3, Hawit was arrested in Switzerland, after the US unveiled the indictment charging him and Rafael Callejas with accepting some $600,000 in bribes from Miami-based sports marketing company Media World. Hawit is also charged with accepted $450,000 in bribes alongside Ariel Alvarado of Panama and Rafael Salguero of Guatemala from Argentine sports company Full Play.
Many of the bribes were wired to accounts under the name of Hawit’s wife in Panama City, according to the indictment. Other bribes were wired by Media World’s Bank of America account to Panama, then transfered again to Honduran accounts controlled by Hawit.
After the first stage of the US investigation into FIFA was unveiled in May, Hawit went on to instruct collaborators to draw up fake contracts, so that he could better conceal his bribe payments. He also disguised his bribe payments by creating fake land purchase contracts in Honduras, alongside his wife.
Rafael Callejas served as Honduras’ president from 1990 to 1994, and currently serves on the FIFA marketing committee. In 2012, he served as the head of Honduras’ soccer federation, and alongside Alfredo Hawit, he agreed to accept a $600,000 bribe from US sports marketing company Media World, in exchange for selling them media rights. Media World wired the funds from their Bank of America account in Florida to a Panama-based Citibank account. Another conspirator then transfered the money to a Honduran account controlled by Callejas.
Ariel Alvarado served as the head of Panama’s soccer federation from 2004 to 2012. He has also been a member of FIFA and CONCACAF committees.
Alongside Rafael Salguero and Alfredo Hawit, he agreed to accept $450,000 in bribes from Argentine sports company Full Play. The three were flown in a private jet to meet with the owners of Full Play on their Uruguay estate. As was done for Salguero and Hawit, the Full Play owners wired Alvarado’s portion of the bribe money from an account in Switzerland to a US Citibank account. The funds were then distributed among the three soccer officials.
On another occasion, in 2009, while negotiating media rights with another Miami-based sports marketing firm, Traffic USA, Alvarado accepted a $70,000 bribe from the company. This was transfered from Traffic USA’s Citibank account to the account of Alvarado’s attorney. The company also paid Alvarado an additional $60,000 bribe in this manner to secure additional media rights.
Jose Luis Meiszner
Jose Luis Meiszner is currently the secretary of the South America Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) and the former secretary of Argentina’s soccer federation.
The US indictment accuses him of accepting bribe and kickback payments from Argentine sports media and marketing business TyC (Torneos y Competencias SA). An affiliate of this company, T&T Sports Marketing Ltd (based in the Cayman Islands, a known hub for money laundering), paid out various bribes to Meiszner and other conspirators, in exchange for supporting the company’s media rights over the annual Latin American soccer tournament, Copa de los Libertadores.
Eduardo Deluca served as the general secretary of the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) from 1986 to 2011.
Alongside CONMEBOL’s president (who was indicted in May), Deluca is accused of accepting multiple bribes and kickbacks from a New Jersey sports marketing company. The company transferred Deluca’s bribes to a Merrill Lynch account in Uruguay, as well as a US-based brokerage account.
In 2000, Deluca began receiving an annual six-figure bribe from Argentine sports marketing company TyC (Torneos y Competencias SA). As part of the deal, he was meant to receive this annual pay-off up until 2010.
Ricardo Teixeira was head of Brazil’s soccer federation from 1989 to 2012, and also served as a member of FIFA’s executive committee from 1994 to 2012. He was forced to resign due to corruption allegations, as InSight Crime previously described here.
Over time, Teixeira accepted bribes from the affiliate of an Argentine sports media company and a Brazilian sports event management company, Traffic Group. More specifically, he was involved in a scheme in which the Traffic Group owner agreed to pay an annual bribe of nearly $1 million — to be divided up between Teixeira and two other Brazilian sports officials, including Marco Polo del Nero — in order to maintain marketing rights over the Brazil Cup. And after an unnamed sportswear company signed an agreement with a Traffic Group affiliate, Teixeira was paid half of the money that Traffic Group’s owner made from the sponsorship deal.
Marco Polo del Nero
Marco Polo del Nero is the head of Brazil’s soccer federation, as well as a member of several FIFA committees. Alongside Ricardo Teixeira, Jose Luis Meiszner, and another FIFA official who was indicted in May, he is accused of accepting bribes and kickbacks from an affiliate of Argentine sports media and marketing business TyC (Torneos y Competencias SA). Additionally, alongside Teixeira, he accepted bribes from Brazilian sports conglomerate Traffic Group.
Carlos Chavez served as the head of Bolivia’s soccer federation from 2006 to August 2015. He is also currently the treasurer of the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL).
The US indictment accuses him of accepting systematic bribes from Argentine sports media company TyC (Torneos y Competencias SA) and its affiliates. Starting in 2010, that same company agreed to pay Chavez a six-figure annual bribe, in order to maintain the media rights over the annual Latin American soccer tournament, Copa de los Libertadores. As part of the deal, Juan Angel Napout, Luis Chiriboga, Manuel Burga, and a Venezuelan soccer official indicted in May also received these annual payments.
Romer Osuna was the treasurer of the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) between 1986 to 2013. He is accused of receiving regular payments from Argentine sports media company TyC (Torneos y Competencias SA), in exchange for allowing them to maintain broadcasting rights over the Copa de los Libertadores. He did so while responsible for FIFA’s auditing process. In 2000, a co-founder of the Argentine company agreed to pay Osuna $600,000 every year over the next decade, in order to maintain the Copa de los Libertadores media rights.
Additionally, in 2007, Osuna received several six-figure payments from Brazilian sports company Traffic Group as part of another bribery scheme.
Luis Chiriboga is the head of Ecuador’s soccer federation. In 2010, alongside five other South American soccer officials (including Carlos Chavez, Juan Angel Napout, and Manuel Burga) he pressured an Argentine sports media company into paying annual bribes, in exchage for the media rights over the Copa de los Libertadores.
Juan Angel Napout
Juan Angel Napout is on FIFA’s Executive Committee and is the current president of the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL). He has previously served as CONMEBOL’s vice president and as the head of Paraguay’s soccer federation.
The US indictment notes that as head of CONMEBOL, Napout “sought to portray himself as an agent of reform, notwithstanding his own long-standing involvement in the solicitation and receipt of bribe and kickback payments.” Some of these payments came from Argentine sports media company TyC (Torneos y Competencias SA) and its affiliates. He was also among those set to receive bribe payments from a TyC affiliate, in exchange for granting the entity exclusive rights over the South American Football Championship, also known as Copa America.
Manuel Burga was the head of Peru’s soccer federation from 2002 to 2014, and has also served roles on various FIFA committees.
Alongside Napout and others, Burga was among those receiving six and seven-figure bribe payments from an Argentine company in exchange for the rights over the Copa America soccer tournament. And in 2009, he was part of a bloc of officials that were receiving annual six-figure payments from an affiliate of Argentine company Torneos y Competencias S.A.