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Prosecutors: FIFA executives received bribes for World Cup votes

Lucas Hernandez of France poses with the trophy following the 2018 FIFA World Cup final match at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia, on July 15, 2018. France beat Croatia 4-2. Photo by Chris Brunskill/UPI
Lucas Hernandez of France poses with the trophy following the 2018 FIFA World Cup final match at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia, on July 15, 2018. France beat Croatia 4-2. Photo by Chris Brunskill/UPI | License Photo

April 7 (UPI) -- Prosecutors in New York said FIFA executives received bribes to vote in favor of Qatar and Russia to host the World Cup while charging three media executives, including two former high-ranking Fox executives, as part of a multiyear investigation into corruption within international soccer.

In the indictment unsealed Monday in a Brooklyn federal court, prosecutors said several FIFA executives were "offered or received brides" in connection to their votes cast on Dec. 2, 2010, to decide which countries would host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which went to Russia and Qatar, respectively.

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The court documents detail that defendant Ricardo Teixeira, who was the president of the Brazilian soccer federation and a member of FIFA's executive committee, received bribes to vote for Qatar to host the 2022 event.

Teixeira was charged in December 2015 in connection to the case.

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The court documents also state that defendant Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago and former president of the North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football received $5 million in more than two dozen separate wire transfers to vote for Russia to host the 2018 soccer championship. The wire transfers were sent from 10 different shell companies in Cyprus, Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands and then cleared through correspondent U.S. bank accounts.

Warner was indicted in the case in May 2015.

The court documents also said former FIFIA executive Rafael Salguero was promised $1 million to vote for Russia and that Nicolas Leoz, the former president of South America's soccer confederation CONMEBOL who died in 2019, and an unnamed co-conspirator were offered undisclosed bribes for their support of Qatar.

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The accusations of vote bribing were revealed in the 53-count superseding indictment adding Hernan Lopez and Carlos Martinez, formerly of 21st Century Fox; Gerard Romy, former co-CEO of Spanish media company Imagina Media AudioVisual and Uruguayan sports marketing company Full Play to those the U.S. government has charged as part of its multiyear investigation into corruption in professional soccer. The first charges involved in the investigation were filed in 2015

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"The profiteering and bribery in international soccer have been deep-seated and commonly known practices for decades," said William F. Sweeney, Jr., assistant director-in-charge at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in a statement. "These men, along with the general public, have known the FBI New York and our many law enforcement partners are investigating the illicit handshakes and backroom deals hidden in the infrastructure of soccer events, venues and marketing contracts."

Concerning Lopez, 49, and Martinez, 51, they were charged in connection to a scheme involving annual bribes of millions of dollars to CONMEBOL, the confederation governing South American soccer, in exchange for broadcasting rights. The pair also used the loyalty they bought through the brides to advance Fox's business interests, the prosecutors said.

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Romy, 65, was charged in connection to paying millions in bribes to high-ranking Caribbean Football Union officials and to federations within the Central America Football Union to secure the media and marketing rights to certain FIFA World Cup qualifier matches.

"As charged in the indictment, over a period of many years, the defendants and their co-conspirators corrupted the governance and business of international soccer with bribes and kickbacks, and engaged in criminal fraudulent schemes that caused significant harm to the sport of soccer," said IRS-CI Special Agent-in-Charge Ryan L. Korner. "Their schemes included the use of shell companies, sham consulting contracts and other concealment methods to disguise the bribes and kickback payments and make them appear legitimate."

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