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article imageFIFA seeks tens of millions of dollars from corruption accused

By Eric Bernaudeau (AFP)     Mar 16, 2016 in Sports

FIFA on Wednesday sought to claw back tens of millions of dollars from the "sordid" officials facing charges in the United States over mass bribery scandals that have rocked world football.

Just two weeks after Gianni Infantino replaced Sepp Blatter as FIFA president, the world body gave a wide-ranging acknowledgement of what it called "brazen corruption" in a demand for "victim restitution" made to US authorities.

It called for an investigation into the assets of former FIFA vice-president Jeffrey Webb, who has already pleaded guilty in a US court, saying the Cayman Islands official was still leading an "extravagant lifestyle" in a US home that may have been bought with bribes.

The claim to the US Attorney's office in New York also said a $10 million bribe was paid from South Africa to get votes for the country's bid for the 2010 World Cup.

The issue is so controversial however that FIFA later denied it was accusing South Africa.

Ex-FIFA vice-president Jeffrey Webb has agreed to hand over millions of dollars as part of a plea de...
Ex-FIFA vice-president Jeffrey Webb has agreed to hand over millions of dollars as part of a plea deal with US authorities
Kena Betancur, AFP/File

World football is at the centre of multiple inquiries into bribery and misconduct and the award of World Cup tournaments.

Thirty-nine individuals face charges in the United States over more than $200 million in bribes. FIFA's former leader Blatter and his heir apparent Michel Platini have both been banned because of a separate Swiss inquiry into FIFA's management.

FIFA lambasted the tainted officials who have pleaded guilty or still face charges in the United States.

"By corrupting these tournaments, matches, sponsorships, and other football affairs through their backroom deals and secret payoffs, the defendants dragged FIFA into their sordid misconduct," said the demand.

FIFA said it "estimates that at a minimum tens of millions of dollars were diverted" from football through bribes and other corrupt schemes.

"This amount is likely to increase as the investigation continues."

It will seek money from the $190 million that the United States says has been forfeited by the 39 individuals and two companies facing charges.

FIIFA president Gianni Infantino said the convicted defendants caused serious damage to football&apo...
FIIFA president Gianni Infantino said the convicted defendants caused serious damage to football's governing body
Geoff Caddick, AFP

FIFA named 20 former executive committee members and leading regional confederation chiefs that it said had taken more than $28 million in compensation, travel and other costs alone.

"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," said Infantino, who was elected FIFA president on February 26.

Many of the bribes uncovered by US investigators were paid for television and sponsorship deals in Central and South America. Most of the defendants are from this region.

World Cup bids also face mounting scrutiny however.

South Africa has strongly denied paying to secure the 2010 World Cup.

- Votes sold -

Former FIFA vice president Jack Warner is fighting extradition from Trinidad and Tobago to the Unite...
Former FIFA vice president Jack Warner is fighting extradition from Trinidad and Tobago to the United States and denies accepting millions of dollars in bribes
Alva Viarruel, AFP/File

But the FIFA claim says executive committee members -- including Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago and Chuck Blazer of the United States -- "sold their votes on multiple occasions".

It said that Warner, who is fighting extradition to the United States, Blazer, who has made a plea deal with US authorities, Warner’s son Daryan Warner and other unidentified suspects "engineered a $10 million payoff in exchange for executive committee votes regarding where the 2010 FIFA World Cup would be hosted".

Warner sent his son to Paris to collect "a briefcase with $10,000 in cash from a high-ranking South African bid committee official", said the document.

"Ultimately, given defendant Warner’s strong illicit ties to the South African bid committee, the South Africans offered a more attractive bribe of $10 million in exchange for Warner’s, Blazer’s, and a third executive committee member’s votes," it added.

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

Sepp Blatter (left) and Michel Platini were suspended from all football activity for six years
Sepp Blatter (left) and Michel Platini were suspended from all football activity for six years
, AFP/File

In a statement released late in the day, FIFA said however: "The US indictments do not allege that South Africa 'bought' the World Cup with bribes. Nor does FIFA. The US indictments, which FIFA is relying upon in its restitution request, merely accuses certain individuals of criminal behaviour."

South African authorities did not respond immediately. But the sports minister Fikile Mbalula called a press conference for Thursday.

FIFA also told how Warner sold votes for the 2011 FIFA presidential election to Qatari official Mohamed bin Hammam, who has since been banned for life.

Delegates at a Caribbean Football Union meeting where bin Hamman spoke were each given envelopes containing $40,000 in cash.

FIFA goes on the attack in corruption scandal
FIFA goes on the attack in corruption scandal
Jonathan Storey, AFP

Webb has been accused of involvement in bribes for television and marketing deals. He made a deal with US prosecutors last year, having agreed to pay more than $6.7 million, and is now on bail living in a mansion in Georgia state.

FIFA called on the US Attorney to carry out an immediate accounting of Webb's assets and funds.

"FIFA is concerned that Mr. Webb may not have fully disclosed his assets to the court or to the government," the world body said in a letter to the US Attorney.

FIFA highlighted a media report indicating "Webb continues his extravagant lifestyle" and that his home may have been bought with "bribes and kickbacks".

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