The indictment, the latest in long-standing US prosecutions of football officials for alleged corruption, accuses Nicolás Leoz, then Paraguayan president of Conmebol, the governing body of South American football, and the former president of the Brazilian federation Ricardo Teixeira for having received bribes to vote for Qatar during the decisive meeting of the executive committee (exco) of Fifa in December 2010. A third member then very high ranking of the exo under former president Sepp Blatter, who is not named but is identifiable as Julio Grondona, then president of the Argentine FA, is also accused of having been paid to vote for Qatar, but Grondona, who died in 2014, has never been criminally charged.
The indictment is also explosive for accusing the Russian authorities, for the first time, of paying bribes for the votes in favor of their successful bid to host the 2018 World Cup, which was decided at the same fateful FIFA meeting. The document alleges in detail that Jack Warner, then long-time president of the North American and Central American and Caribbean Football Confederation (Concacaf), “was promised and received a bribe from $ 5 million “to vote for Russia.
Another then member of Fifa exco, former president of Guatemala FA Rafael Salguero, is accused of having received a bribe of $ 1 million to vote for Russia. Salguero pleaded guilty to several bribery charges in the United States in 2016, and later admitted that he was offered a bribe to vote for a 2018 World Cup host, but the country’s name has was redacted in his plea document and he said he never received the money. Warner, facing multiple charges of corruption, has denied any wrongdoing and for years has disputed the extradition of his native island of Trinidad.
Alexei Sorokin, the director general of the 2018 Russian World Cup, denied the allegations, as did the Supreme Committee of Qatar overseeing the construction of the grand stadium and preparations for hosting the tournament, which is scheduled to start in November 2022. Led by emir in power, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al -Thani, Qatar remains determined to host the World Cup.
In a statement, the supreme committee said it would fight any accusation that it did not legitimately win the vote. “Despite years of false allegations, no evidence has been produced to demonstrate that Qatar won the right to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup in an unethical or unconventional manner FIFA’s bid, ”said the statement.
“The supreme committee maintains that it has strictly observed all rules and regulations for the 2018/2022 FIFA World Cup bid process and any claims to the contrary are baseless and will be fiercely contested. “
Under Gianni Infantino, elected president after the ban on football from Blatter in December 2015 for violation of the FIFA code of ethics, the world football governing body has condemned all proven corruption and is itself prosecuting a request for compensation against its former accused officials.
Fifa, stressing that it had been granted victim status in US criminal proceedings, said in a statement that it “supports all inquiries into alleged wrongdoing involving national and international football competitions and that ‘she would continue to cooperate fully. law enforcement officials investigating these matters.
“If criminal acts committed by football officials are to be found, the persons concerned should be liable to criminal sanctions. “
Senior officials say FIFA will take the allegations against the organization’s old guard seriously and consider all the implications – but it can now be concluded that the relocation of the Qatar tournament is highly unlikely. Two of those accused of receiving bribes, Leoz and Grondona, died and therefore cannot be found guilty. Teixeira, the former son-in-law of the president of Fifa before Blatter, João Havelange, has not been extradited to face any of the multiple corruption charges brought against him by the Ministry of Justice, so any trial should be considered improbable .
The indictment is also light on the details of the alleged bribes for Qatar, an allegation first made in a Brooklyn court in late 2017 during the corruption trial of three other former football officials South American. Alejandro Burzaco, a television executive who had pleaded guilty to paying bribes, said Grondona once told him that Teixeira owed him $ 1 million because he voted for Qatar. Grondona also said, according to Burzaco, that “it was not a private matter” that he, Teixeira and Leoz, also accused of prodigious corruption by the US authorities, were voting for Qatar.
Two and a half years later, the indictment alleges nothing more than: “The accused Ricardo Teixeira, Nicolás Leoz and [Grondona, described as Co-Conspirator #1], were offered and received bribes in return for their votes in favor of Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup. ”
Even if this case were to be tried, following an unforeseeable delay in the justice system due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and even if Teixeira was found guilty – he has always denied allegations of corruption – it would have to be proven that bribes came from Qatar’s official bid and were decisive in sending the tournament to Qatar. Qatar was more than three votes ahead in the four rounds of voting for the host country in 2022.
For more than nine years, Qatar has spent billions to build seven stadiums, reconfigure another stadium and build a vast infrastructure to host the World Cup. Exceptionally sound and proven reasons would be required in due course if the tournament were to be moved, and it is clear that the Supreme Committee denies any suggestion to this effect.