Two and a half years after the dramatic arrests in Zurich, South American football bosses finally face a Brooklyn court on corruption and bribery charges.
Denying the charges, that include racketerring are:
- José Maria Marin (pictured above), former president of the Brazil football association
- Juan Ángel Napout, the Paraguayan former president of CONMEBOL
- Manuel Burga, former president of the Peru Football Association for 12 years
As David Conn explains in this story for The Guardian, the Robert Mueller investigation into associates of Donald Trump and their links to Russia is straight out of the FBI FIFA playbook.
[Chuck Blazer’s] flip from Fifa powerbroker to admitted fraudster and informer echoes that of George Papadopoulos, the former Trump campaign foreign affairs adviser revealed to have pleaded guilty to lying, who is now believed to have worn a wire since in conversations with associates. The exploration by the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Justice of endemic corruption in football followed the template now believed to be operating in the presidential investigation. They pinned Blazer with his undeniable guilt, secured his agreement to inform on others, then moved on to those whose names he sang. Investigators followed the evidence, and the money, secured more guilty pleas and informants, and proceeded to the next targets.
One crucial witness for the ultimate compiling of an indictment against 27 defendants, a who’s who of football potentates in the Americas, was clearly José Hawilla, the former president of Traffic, a prominent marketing company based in Brazil. Traffic was famed for having brokered a $160m deal in 1996 for Nike to sponsor the Brazil national team for 10 years.
Hawilla said he started Traffic as a legitimate company, buying South American football TV rights and selling them to broadcasters. But then the Paraguayan Nicolás Leoz, another of Fifa’s most powerful chiefs, president of Conmebol from 1986 to 2013, demanded the first bribe as long ago as 1991: “Leoz told Hawilla … that Hawilla would make a lot of money from the rights he was acquiring,” the indictment stated. “Leoz did not think it was fair that he did not also make money. Leoz told Hawilla that he would only sign the contract if Hawilla agreed to pay him a bribe.”
And so it began and so Hawilla fell down the rabbit hole. He admitted that that from then on his company was endemically corrupt. Every major deal required bribes to Leoz, Teixeira and other football bosses, including Julio Grondona, president of the Argentina FA from 1979.