The Department of Justice announced today that it will begin the process of remitting forfeited funds to FIFA, the world organizing body of soccer; CONCACAF, the confederation responsible for soccer governance in North and Central America, among other regions; CONMEBOL, the confederation responsible for soccer governance in South America; and various constituent national soccer federations (collectively, the “Victims”). The department granted a joint petition for remission filed by the Victims, recognizing losses and granting remission up to a total of more than $201 million, of which $32.3 million in forfeited funds has been approved for an initial distribution. In total, well over the amount granted has been seized and has been or is expected to be forfeited to the United States in the Eastern District of New York as part of the government’s long-running investigation and prosecution of corruption in international soccer.
To date, the prosecutions have resulted in charges against more than 50 individual and corporate defendants from more than 20 countries, primarily in connection with the offer and receipt of bribes and kickbacks paid by sports marketing companies to soccer officials in exchange for the media and marketing rights to various soccer tournaments and events.
This announcement is the beginning of the process for returning funds to the victims of the FIFA bribery scandal and marks the department’s continued commitment to ensuring justice for those victims harmed by this scheme.
“The approval of this remission of funds illegally obtained in the FIFA scandal marks another important milestone in these prosecutions and the department’s commitment to use all tools at its disposal to prosecute corruption and to deprive perpetrators of ill-gotten gains,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “This remission highlights the importance of asset forfeiture as a critical tool for the recovery of criminal proceeds and the pursuit of justice.”
“Today’s announcement confirms that money stolen by corrupt soccer officials and sports marketing executives through fraud and greed will be returned to where it belongs and used to benefit the sport,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Jacquelyn M. Kasulis for the Eastern District of New York. “From the start, this investigation and prosecution have been focused on bringing wrongdoers to justice and restoring ill-gotten gains to those who work for the benefit of the beautiful game. Our office, together with our law enforcement partners, will always work to compensate victims of crime.”
“Kickbacks and bribes have a way of spreading like a disease through corrupt groups; pure and simple greed keeps the graft going,” said Assistant Director-in-Charge Michael J. Driscoll of the FBI’s New York Field Office. “Not one official in this investigation seemed to care about the damage being done to a sport that millions around the world revere. The only silver lining is the money will now help underprivileged people who need it, not the wealthy executives who just wanted it to get richer. Our work isn’t finished, and our promise to those who love the game – we won’t give up until everyone sees justice for what they’ve done.”
“For years, corrupt soccer officials and greedy sports marketing executives engaged in dozens of multimillion-dollar bribe and kickback schemes,” said Special Agent-in-Charge Ryan L. Korner of the IRS-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI). “These individuals and companies lined their pockets with millions that were supposed to be used for the development and betterment of soccer worldwide. Agents with IRS-CI and their partners at the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI relentlessly pursued this corruption and seized these ill-gotten gains. Now these funds can be used as they were intended, to promote and develop the world’s most popular game.”
On May 27, 2015, an indictment was unsealed charging 14 FIFA officials and sports marketing executives with racketeering, honest services wire fraud and money laundering offenses, among others. On Dec. 3, 2015, a superseding indictment was unsealed charging an additional 16 FIFA officials with similar crimes. Additional defendants were charged by indictment and information. During the course of the prosecutions to date, 27 individual defendants have pleaded guilty for their roles in the charged crimes. In December 2017, two former FIFA officials, Juan Ángel Napout, of Paraguay, and José Maria Marin, of Brazil, were convicted after trial of racketeering conspiracy and related offenses. Four corporate entities have pleaded guilty and others, including banking institutions, have acknowledged their roles in criminal conduct through deferred prosecution or non-prosecution agreements. The government’s prosecutions and investigation are ongoing.
As part of these proceedings, many of the defendants were ordered to forfeit assets obtained through their criminal activity. Under federal law, the Department of Justice has the authority to distribute the proceeds of forfeited assets through the remission process to victims of crimes, including to the soccer organizations that employed and were defrauded by the corrupt soccer executives.
FIFA, CONCACAF, and CONMEBOL have committed to distributing funds received through the remission process to and through a newly created World Football Remission Fund (the “Fund”), to be established under the FIFA Foundation, an independent foundation focused on youth programs, community outreach and humanitarian needs. The terms of the Fund provide for oversight and independent audit measures to ensure remitted funds are distributed appropriately.
The government’s case is being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s FIFA Task Force. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Samuel P. Nitze, M. Kristin Mace, Keith D. Edelman, Brian D. Morris and Kaitlin T. Farrell are in charge of the prosecution and coordination of the victim remission process. The Justice Department, through the Asset Forfeiture Program, works diligently to restore lost funds to victims of crime. The victim compensation payments in the FIFA case would not have been possible without the extraordinary efforts of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, the FBI’s New York Field Office and IRS-CI.