THE REVELATION that the FBI is investigating FIFA should bring an end to three decades of institutional corruption, personified in recent times by President Sepp Blatter. I have been talking with Special Agents from the Organised Crime and Racketeering Section of the Department of Justice in Washington and with an FBI Organised Crime squad from New York since they contacted me seeking evidence nearly three years ago.
Law enforcement sources in New York and Washington confirmed today that they are investigating „a major case“ involving allegations of corruption at FIFA. The probe is into allegations of fraud and bribery. It began in the North, Central American and Caribbean regional football confederation but the money trail leads back to FIFA’s HQ in Zurich, Switzerland. Unofficial sources have confirmed that Daryan Warner, eldest son of disgraced former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner of Trinidad, has become a co-operating witness with the FBI probe. Warner jnr has been resident in Florida for the last two months and clearly is not free to leave America. It has yet to be divulged what evidence the FBI have on him but it is likely to be substantial and enough to make him break family confidences in return for serving less jail time.
Daryan Warner was always the „back office“ money-man organising the laundering and concealment of bribes and profits from every kind of illicit football activity by his father – siphoning off grants, dealing in World Cup tickets and pocketing substantial bribes from countries hoping to host the World Cup. Warner frequently worked in concert with fellow FIFA executive committee member Chuck Blazer from New York:
The FIFA career of Jack Warner began to unravel in May 2011 when he was caught with $1 million in bribes, in envelopes each containing $40,000 in cash, for distributing to Caribbean football associations. The aim was to persuade them to vote for Qatar’s Mohamed Bin Hammam who was contesting the FIFA presidency against incumbent Sepp Blatter. Blazer „ratted“ on Warner to FIFA but was himself soon engulfed in documented corruption allegations.
- Here is today’s Reuters story „EXCLUSIVE: FBI has cooperating witness for soccer fraud probe“
Where will the FBI investigation go next? For a start, they are not alone. For 18 months there have been parallel investigations by America’s tax authorities, the Internal Revenue Service. The secret probes range from Port of Spain to Trump Tower to Cayman, Paradise Island to Miami, Zurich to Zug and much further to the Gulf. They have co-operated with police in London and Switzerland.
The industrial-scale thieving of Warner and Blazer is woven into the fabric of FIFA. Repeatedly, the gruesome duo were encouraged to plunder grants and World Cup tickets. In return they delivered votes to keep Blatter in power. Football lovers must dream that the G-Men will find reasons to extend their investigations into Issa Hayatou’s African empire and the rest of FIFA.
As the FBI spreads its net, FIFA officials in Zurich should be seeking advice from their personal lawyers about what to say if the Feds come knocking. If they have handled corrupt payments authorised by Blatter or General Secretary Jerome Valcke, they may find it wise to follow Daryan Warner’s example and become collaborating witnesses rather than risk extradition and jail.
- Wired868: Lasana Liburd from T&T
- The ISL bribery system: 138 million CHF for senior officials in the Olympic world
The bribery amount has increased to almost 142 mio CHF since then :)
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- FIFA-Whistleblower Chuck Blazer kassiert 9,6 Millionen Dollar (und mehr)
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Honest FIFA staff could volunteer more names. It would be unfair if only Warner and Blazer were held to account for the looting of FIFA. At any time in recent years up to half the FIFA ExCo were involved in dubious activities. The remainder, well-rewarded by Blatter with big fees, expenses and fistfuls of World Cup tickets, looked the other way, unwilling to hold their colleagues to account.
The FBI is also showing interest in the dubious decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. The Agents have acquired some very specific information – but that topic must be left for the moment. Another group of investigators, working alongside the FBI, is looking at one other big-ticket FIFA decision. Following the disclosures in 2010 by journalists at Sunday Times Insight and BBC Panorama of corruption at the highest level of FIFA Blatter should have been evicted from power and his personal financial dealings probed. Instead he was allowed to get away with announcing „independent“ investigations, controlled by him.
These may now be irrelevant. Former US prosecutor Michael Garcia, selected by Blatter, promises to tell us soon what we already know about the $100 million kickbacks from ISL to ExCo members and Blatter’s involvement. The governance reforms suggested by Swiss professor Mark Pieth, also appointed by Blatter and now mostly ignored, are fizzling out.
The FBI investigations, combined with endless corruption scandals in Brazil, threatens the success of next year’s World Cup. In November 2010 I revealed in a BBC Panorama programme that Ricardo Teixeira, boss of Brazilian football, a member of the FIFA ExCo and former son-in-law of Joao Havelange, had trousered at least $10 million in contract kickbacks at FIFA. Eventually, a year ago, he was forced out of FIFA and Brazilian football.
It gets worse. Teixeira’s successor at the Brazilian federation, José Maria Marin, is implicated in the murder by the military dictatorship in 1975 of a former BBC journalist. In recent days Brazilian media has obtained tapes of Marin discussing dirty deals in football. The new chair of the Congressional Sports and Tourism Committee, former footballer Romario, has called for Marin to be jailed. Brazilians are becoming restless at the FIFA ripoffs, expected to pay the vast bill for staging the World Cup while watching a record $5 billion profit disappear back to Zurich.
Sao Paulo cops, investigating the theft of confidential government information, raided the home of Marco Polo Del Nero, Teixeira’s successor at FIFA’s ExCo, in November. Del Nero, 70, claimed he was checking his 28- year-old model girlfriend Carolina Galan was not being unfaithful.
SINCE CHRISTMAS the bloggers of Trinidad have been shouting to the world that Daryan Warner, son of Jack, had been arrested at Miami airport carrying a bag of cash. Depending who you read, it started at $100,000 and escalated as high as $750,000. Some said that Jack’s other son, Daryl Warner was also detained. In early March the cautious mainstream Trinidad media, despite threats from Jack Warner, began publishing stories about „the son of a Cabinet member“ under arrest in Miami, accused of money laundering.
Now they are vindicated. One by-product of the scandal may be to terminate the increasingly absurd administration of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. Despite Warner hurriedly quitting FIFA ahead of corruption investigations she appointed him to take charge of the police (yes, really) and the army (Yes!) and has denied for weeks knowing about the arrest of Daryan.
Because Warner spent millions of dollars buying success at the polls for her UNC party Kamla has given him a free hand to persecute opponents and appoint incompetent loyalists to well-paid government jobs. The latest disclosures in corrupt Trinidad politics is that Warner has secretly created his own tax-payer funded squad of Ton Ton Macoutes.
If the Feds decide to extradite Warner they face a tough task. If he surrounds himself with cops and soldiers the squad that took out Bin Laden may be needed.
THE NEXT VICTIM of the FBI investigation may be the Financial Times (FT) newspaper. It runs business conferences and has just announced a „Business of Football Summit“ in Rio in June. Top of the bill will be FIFA president Blatter.
It will be embarrassing if Blatter turns up and equally bad if he is detained elsewhere. And it’s an altogether strange affair. In the shadows, available to FT clients, will be lurking a dark arts operative who boasts of hacking bank accounts and phones.
Organising the event for the FT at the Copacabana Palace hotel is Zurich-based company International Football Arena who stage footie conferences where uncritical reporters, club owners and potential sponsors pay to mingle with Blatter. His PR-man Peter Hargitay does the introductions and his son Stevie does meet ’n‘ greet at the front door.
On the FT conference website Stevie is listed as „Sponsorship contact.“ On his Twitter account Stevie describes himself as a „Cunning Linguist“ – whatever that means – and movie producer. The latest Hargitay epic, Chicks dig Gay Guys – with added artistic nudity – has been scheduled for release for the last two years. A screening may be part of the Rio entertainment. The movie message is, pretend to be a male homosexual and the „chicks“ strip off fast. The FT provides for every need.
Chairing the conference is FT Sports Correspondent Roger Blitz who has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ask Keynote speaker Blatter to come clean about the FBI investigation and how $100 million in contract kickbacks from a marketing company was laundered through Liechtenstein to FIFA’s leaders.
On a more personal level, Blitz could inquire, did Blatter’s heart miss a beat on March 3, 1997 when he discovered a one million Swiss Francs bribe to Rio resident and former FIFA president Joao Havelange being laundered through a FIFA account?
Blitz could also invite the shifty Peter Hargitay to reveal to the 200-strong audience the names of the FIFA officials he planned to bribe with the £4 million he asked the English FA to give him to win their bid to host the World Cup. The Swiss-Hungarian conman could also entertain with tales of his seven months banged up in Miami before being cleared of cocaine trafficking.
As the bribes scandal began to take off in 2002, Blatter hired Peter Hargitay to poison the wells of English journalism. Hargitay boasts that he can divert reporters from clients‘ problems. He did a great job in London. The sports news reporters universally ignored the ISL scandal.
The IFA conference organisers can be found in a modest Zurich villa in Lavaterstrasse. Under the same roof is one of Hargitay’s many businesses, private detective agency AB Investigations, where he has been billed as a Managing Partner.
ABI promises clients „government-level surveillance,“ and „special covert operation assignments“ and where needed, „physical intervention on behalf of corporate clients.“ A previous Hargitay business at this address promised it could hack bank accounts. Is this the kind of service the FT is offering its customers?
IT’S BEEN A LONG WAIT for the Feds to make their move. A meeting with Special Agents at Birmingham New Street station in November 2011 had to be aborted. Another time tickets were reserved for a big game at Wembley – some of the G-men are serious football fans – but that trip was cancelled. In the years that we communicated I handed over documents proving that FIFA leaders had received kickbacks on contracts and pointed them to sources with firsthand knowledge. We engaged in lengthy phone calls and exchanged maybe 100 emails.
After I told them about confidential information available in Switzerland they contacted Swiss criminal authorities under the Mutual Assistance Treaty. During a conference in Miami in 2010, where I addressed law enforcement officials about FIFA corruption and the evidence that FIFA operated as an Organised Crime Family, I had discussions with a senior IRS counsel. Prior to this widely advertised conference the organisers and I were threatened by FIFA lawyers.
The last time I met face to face with the FBI was in a private office close to their London embassy in the week before the London Olympics. Again, I was able to give them crucial documents.
Later they told me that one of the documents was „particularly useful for their purposes.“ This was a list of bribes implicating several leading FIFA officials. They promised that „while the judicial process may seem glacial, things are progressing.“
The IOC could face embarrassment. After I revealed in a November 2010 BBC Panorama programme that Havelange had taken bribes at FIFA, the IOC began the process that forced the old crook to resign.
But they shied away from the unequivocal evidence that Blatter handled the bribe that shamed Havelange. Will they now crank up a Blatter investigation before the FBI do it for them?
For the last two years, while Blatter has been persuading gullible journalists to publish uplifting stories about his „roadmap for reform“, investigators from Federal agencies in Washington and New York have been assembling evidence of corruption in World Cup voting.
The possibility of a re-run of both the 2018 and 2022 votes cannot be ruled out. If bribery can be proved on one vote, it taints the other. One problem staging a new vote could be that some senior FIFA officials may be reluctant to leave their own countries, fearing they may be named in sealed indictments in New York and be arrested as they transit through airports. This happened during the 1999 Salt Lake scandal at the IOC. When an American government official turned up in Lausanne surrounded by armed US Marshalls some IOC members feared they would be arrested and shipped to the Utah dungeons.
Blatter’s choreographed FIFA Congress in Mauritius at the end of May looks shaky. If the Feds are working in the background, its hard to take this expensive reward to the Blatter faithful seriously. If he is free to attend, Blatter will pretend all is well, the Feds are just a blip. He’s staging it in a location too expensive for most foreign and experienced media. If he’s not free to attend, the consequences are too wonderful to predict at this time.
The English FA will soon appoint a new chairman. Will Greg Dyke be the man to stand up, shout „stinking fish“ and demand genuine reform?
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