Football

Fifa plans to sue corrupt officials

Fifa to sue corrupt officials, also reveals South Africa paid a $14m bribe for 2010 World Cup

Fifa plans to reclaim millions of dollars pocketed illegally by corrupt Fifa members and other football officials.

A US investigation exposed widespread corruption at the top of world football and Fifa estimates that at a minimum tens of millions of dollars were diverted from the sport illegally through bribery, kickbacks and corrupt schemes carried out by the defendants.

Fifa submitted documents yesterday to the US authorities in an effort to reclaim tens of millions of dollars taken illegally by corrupt Fifa members and other football officials

Newly-elected Fifa president Gianni Infantino said in a statement: "The defendants diverted this money not just from Fifa but also from players, coaches and fans worldwide who benefit from the programmes that Fifa runs to develop and promote football."

Former executives Jack Warner, a former Fifa vice-president, Chuck Blazer and Jeffrey Webb are among the defendants Fifa has said it will sue.

Fifa says it is a "victimised institution" and has submitted a request for restitution to the US attorney's office and the US probation office for the Eastern District of New York.

It is claiming damages from 41 former Fifa officials from other football organisations indicted in the ongoing investigation by the US Department of Justice.

Fifa accepts the millions of dollars lost during the corruption scandal is likely to increase as the investigation continues.

The US government has already announced forfeiture amounts that should cover Fifa's claims for damages.

"The convicted defendants abused the positions of trust they held at Fifa and other international football organisations and caused serious and lasting damage to Fifa, its member associations and the football community," Infantino said.

"The monies they pocketed belonged to global football and were meant for the development and promotion of the game.

"Fifa as the world governing body of football wants that money back and we are determined to get it no matter how long it takes.

"These dollars were meant to build football fields, not mansions and pools; to buy football kits, not jewellery and cars; and to fund youth player and coach development, not to underwrite lavish lifestyles for football and sports marketing executives.

"When Fifa recovers this money, it will be directed back to its original purpose: for the benefit and development of international football."

The documents also saw Fifa admit for the first time that a US$10-million ($14m) payment from South Africa to former Concacaf president Warner and Blazer was a bribe for World Cup votes in 2010.

"It is now apparent that multiple members of Fifa's executive committee abused their positions and sold their votes on multiple occasions," the papers state.

"Defendant Jack Warner, together with his co-conspirators Charles (Chuck) Blazer (who has admitted his crimes and pleaded guilty), defendant Warner's son Daryan Warner, and other co-conspirators not named in the Superseding Indictment, engineered a US$10m pay-off in exchange for executive committee votes regarding where the 2010 Fifa World Cup would be hosted."

Fifa said the scheme "built off Warner's corrupt vote in 1992 for Morocco to host the 1998 Fifa World Cup". That tournament was eventually staged in France.

Twelve years later, Warner and Blazer, who by 2004 also had a vote as an executive committee member, were alleged in Fifa's restitution request to be offered a US$1m bribe by the Morocco bid committee to host the 2010 World Cup.

But Fifa said Warner and his family had already established close ties to South Africa during their failed bid to host the 2006 tournament.

Warner's son, the documents state, had organised a series of friendly matches among Concacaf teams to be played in South Africa and had received a briefcase with US$10,000 in cash from a high-ranking South African official in Paris.

It is said that he immediately return to Trinidad and Tobago to give the money to his father.

"Ultimately, given defendant Warner's strong illicit ties to the South African bid committee, the South Africans offered a more attractive bribe of US$10m in exchange for Warner's, Blazer's, and a third executive committee member's votes," says the document.

"Warner and his co-conspirators lied to Fifa about the nature of the payment, disguising it as support for the benefit of the "African Diaspora" in the Caribbean region, when in reality, it was a bribe.

"They disguised and funnelled the bribe money through the financial accounts of Fifa, member associations, and the 2010 Fifa World Cup local organising committee.

"At the time of the scheme, Warner was a member of the Fifa executive committee, a Fifa vice-president, and the president of both Concacaf and the Caribbean Football Union, which had 31 member associations in its ranks.

"Blazer was also a member of Fifa's executive committee, at times a member of Fifa's marketing and television committees, and the general secretary of Concacaf.

"They breached the fundamental duties they owed to Fifa, CFU, and Concacaf and stole US$10m."

- PA Sport.

Fifa suspect's Webb of deceit

Jeffrey Webb, the disgraced former Fifa vice-president, has kept up a millionaire lifestyle quaffing champagne, gambling and partying while under US house arrest awaiting sentence for corruption, according to football's world body.

The 51-year-old (below) husband of American gynaecologist Kendra Gamble-Webb was the r former Fifa official to appear publicly in a New York court last July and quietly cut a plea deal four months later.

The Cayman Islands-British citizen pleaded guilty to racketeering, conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering.

He promised to forfeit more than US$6.7 million ($9.2m) in assets and is to be formally sentenced in June.

Last July, he was confined to house arrest in New York on a US$10m bond. But within weeks, Webb was allowed to move home to Loganville, Georgia, albeit subject to electronic monitoring, home detention and a security detail.

Yesterday, Fifa's American lawyers complained in a letter to the US attorney's office that Webb enjoys an "extravagant lifestyle" at a home he may have purchased "with bribes and kickbacks".

"According to reports, he recently hosted an expensive themed birthday party for his wife, replete with entertainment and gambling tables," the Washington DC law firm wrote, enclosing a Cayman Islands media report.

The story published by the Cayman News Service said Webb enjoyed a "lavish" Harlem Renaissance themed party "at his Georgia mansion" to celebrate his wife's 40th birthday, attended by friends and family.

The report, dated Feb 8, included photos purportedly of Webb dressed in a white dinner jacket and bow tie playing a winning hand at a blackjack table with a huge grin on his face, and giving a speech next to a cake.

The photographs, which were allegedly posted on Facebook, showed his wife dressed in a beaded evening gown, glittering 1920s style head piece, white gloves and holding a champagne glass.

The report said the party came "just hours" after Canover Watson, Webb's former friend, was sentenced to seven years in the Cayman Islands for corruption.

In the letter to the US attorney's office, Fifa's lawyers requested an "immediate" audit of Webb's funds and assets, expressing concern that he may not have fully disclosed them to the court.

"At a minimum, his resources are not being protected for the benefit of his victims," they wrote.

The Fifa action claimed proceeds of a US$3m bribe requested by Webb as president of the Cayman Islands Football Association were paid into bank accounts in Georgia and enabled him to buy "a small mansion and install a swimming pool".

The lawsuit said Fifa was entitled to recover damages and US$28.2m in lost salaries, per diems, travel and other costs spent on defendants who dragged the organisation's name through the mud, including US$2m from Webb.

Last July's details of his US$10m bond also lifted the lid on phenomenal wealth that Webb accumulated while he was Fifa vice-president, president of the Cayman Islands Football Association and of Concacaf, football's governing body for North and Central America and the Caribbean.

Two homes in his name, two in the couple's name and a fifth in his wife's name were among 10 properties listed to secure his bond. The others are owned by relatives.

Two luxury cars in his wife's name - a 2014 Range Rover and a 2015 Ferrari - were also stumped up, as well as Webb's Mercedes-Benz.

Webb also handed over 11 watches, including four Rolex and a Cartier Roadster. His wife proffered her diamond wedding ring, a diamond bracelet, pearl and diamond necklaces and earrings, and two watches, including a Rolex.

US authorities did not immediately comment on the Fifa demand.

- AFP.