The case against Jack Warner
The US district court alleges massive corruption by Warner within its prosecution of 14 people, including serving and former high-ranking Fifa officials and sports marketing company executives alleged to have paid bribes.
As president from 1990 of the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (Concacaf) and a Fifa executive committee (exco) member, Warner from the early 1990s “began to leverage his influence and exploit his official positions for personal gain”, the indictment alleges. His demand for and receipt of bribes, the authorities allege, was a key part of a 24-year racketeering and bribery conspiracy, dating from 1991 to 2015, which led to “endemic corruption” of Fifa itself.
Most extraordinary in a 164-page indictment is an alleged $10m payment transferred by Fifa to Caribbean Football Union (CFU) accounts that Warner controlled, in return for Warner, Chuck Blazer and an unnamed third Fifa exco “conspirator” voting for South Africa to host the 2010 World Cup. The indictment alleges the South African government initially offered to make this payment to the CFU, with a stated purpose to “support the African diaspora”.
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From this $10m, Warner is alleged to have agreed to pay $1m to Blazer – who, according to the US Department of Justice, has pleaded guilty to this and a series of other financial frauds and crimes.
Ultimately, the South African government is said to have been unable to pay the $10m, so in early 2008, four years after the offer was made, the money is alleged to have been paid by Fifa. Three payments are itemised: for $616,000, then $1.6m, then the balance, $7.784m, wired from a Fifa account in Switzerland to CFU and Concacaf Bank of America accounts controlled by Warner.
The indictment alleges: “Soon after receiving these wire transfers, the defendant Jack Warner caused a substantial portion of the funds to be diverted for his personal use,” which included laundering the money through intermediaries.
Warner is accused of agreeing to pay Blazer’s $1m share in instalments “as he had already spent it”. In the event, he paid Blazer $750,000, in three instalments between 2008 and 2011, allegations to which Blazer is said to have pleaded guilty.
The indictment also charges Warner over the infamous payments of $40,000 packs of cash to Caribbean delegates in 2011 by Mohamed bin Hammam, who was challenging Sepp Blatter for the Fifa presidency. Warner, discovering that one official had called Blazer at Concacaf to tell him about the payments, is alleged to have become angry and said: “There are some people here who think they are more pious than thou. If you’re pious, open a church, friends. Our business is our business.”
Warner, whose sons Daryll and Daryan have pleaded guilty to separate charges, has insisted he is innocent and has not been questioned in relation to the indictment.
The case against Jeffrey Webb
Webb, based in the Cayman Islands, became Concacaf president, a Fifa vice-president and exco member in May 2012, after Warner resigned following the scandal over the $40,000 payments.
Webb has been seen as a clean-up figure and potential successor to Sepp Blatter for the Fifa presidency but the US indictment accuses him of brazen corruption, being paid bribes that went into building a swimming pool at his house. The bribes are alleged to have been paid by the sports marketing company Traffic USA, in return for being awarded TV and marketing rights for the Caribbean countries’ qualifying matches in the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Webb is said to have wanted a $3m bribe in return for ensuring the CFU did that deal with Traffic. The indictment alleges Aaron Davidson, the president of Traffic Sports USA, another of the 14 men charged, knew about the bribe.
The $3m payment is alleged to have been arranged with another of the defendants, Costas Takkas, a UK citizen and the general secretary of the Cayman Islands Football Association, who is described as a close associate of Webb. Takkas is said to have been paid by instalments into various accounts, including in the Cayman Islands, intended it is alleged, “to conceal the fact the defendant Jeffrey Webb was the beneficiary of the payment”.
Takkas is accused of wiring some of the money to an account of his in Miami. Then, the indictment alleges: “Takkas subsequently transferred the funds to an account in the name of a swimming pool builder at United Community Bank in Blairsville, Georgia [USA], for the benefit of the defendant Jeffrey Webb, who was having a pool built at his residence.”
Webb is understood to have been arrested by Swiss authorities in Zurich for extradition to the US, where authorities have stressed defendants are innocent until proven guilty in court.
The case against Chuck Blazer
Blazer, the Concacaf general secretary for 21 years between 1990 and 2011, is said to have pleaded guilty in 2013 to 10 counts including racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, income tax evasion from 2005-2010, and failure to file reports of his foreign bank accounts. The Department of Justice said he faces a maximum 20 years’ incarceration in a US prison for the conspiracies, 10 for the failure to declare his foreign bank accounts, and five years for the tax evasion charges.
Blazer was accused of soliciting a bribe for Warner as long ago as 1992, from the bid committee seeking to have Morocco selected as the host for the 1998 World Cup. Warner is said to have accepted the offer of a bribe in return for voting for Morocco, and Blazer chased it up for him. The payment was ultimately made, the indictment says, but in fact Fifa’s exco voted for France to host the 1998 tournament.
Blazer is said to have also pleaded guilty to receiving $750,000 from Jack Warner, part of Blazer’s agreed $1m share of the $10m paid to Warner’s accounts by Fifa itself, after Warner agreed to vote for South Africa to host the 2010 World Cup.
The charge of failing to declare a foreign bank account relates to money Blazer held during 2010 at First Caribbean International Bank, in the Bahamas. He has already forfeited $1.9m when he pleaded guilty, and is due to pay more to the authorities when he is sentenced.
The case against Traffic and its owner, José Hawilla
José Hawilla, who founded and owned the sports marketing company Traffic, based in São Paulo, is said to have pleaded guilty to paying bribes relating to the sponsorship of the Brazil national team by “a major US sportswear company”. The deal, under which the Brazil Football Federation (CBF) would be paid $160m over 10 years, is said to have been agreed in 1996. That was the year that Traffic brokered the famous sponsorship by Nike of the CBF but Nike is not actually named in the papers.
The indictment alleges Hawilla was paid a percentage of the $160m, which bought the sportswear company exclusive rights to make Brazil shirts, clothing and other equipment. Hawilla is said to have pleaded guilty to paying a high-ranking, unnamed CBF official half his commission, totalling “in the millions”, by way of bribe and kickback for sealing the deal.
Nike itself issued a statement in response to the revelations, saying: “Nike believes in ethical and fair play in both business and sport, and strongly opposes any form of manipulation or bribery. We have been cooperating, and will continue to cooperate, with the authorities.”