KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- World football federation FIFA is being handed back $201m by the United States justice system from the restitution forced out of the FIFAGate crooks on the threat of lengthy jail terms.
That may appear a vast sum. In fact, as one former high-placed director told this writer, “it’s really just small change.”
This was the sum obtained from known and proven criminality over a comparatively short term in the early years of this century.
Questions which cannot be accurately answered are:
1, How much was missed?
2, How much did minor players skim off the rights/bribes system?
3, How much was banked in offshore accounts in previous years by FIFA executive members? and
4, How much more would have been cleared had the US DoJ laid its hands on Brazilian football dictators Ricardo Teixeira and Marco Polo del Nero plus ex-CONCACAF supremo Jack Warner, still holed up and fighting extradition from Trinidad & Tobago)?
$1bn? $2bn? Even more?
FIFA president Gianni Infantino welcomed the restitution order as if this were some grand World Cup victory. Nothing of the sort. He can take no credit on behalf of the organisation he leads and for whose past, present and future he is the ultimate figure of responsibility.
In an era when political figures are offering governmental apologies for the sins of their colonial forefathers, so Infantino would have stood taller had he offered an all-embracing apology on behalf of FIFA to the world game which was robbed of thousands of kids’ pitches and grassroots facilities and so much else around the planet.
The FIFAGate scandal exploded on the game in May 2015 when seven senior international football bosses were detained in Zurich, pending extradition, on the eve of FIFA Congress. More than 50 men and one known woman were subject to criminal charges.
So far 27 individuals and four corporate entities have pleaded guilty with two convicted at trial (ex-South American president Juan Angel Napout and ex-Brazilian FA president Jose Maria Marin).
The restitution agreement was announced by Jacquelyn Kasulis, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
She said: “Money stolen by corrupt soccer officials and sports marketing executives through fraud and greed will be returned to where it belongs and used to benefit the sport.
“From the start, this investigation and prosecution have been focused on bringing wrongdoers to justice and restoring ill-gotten gains to those who work for the benefit of the beautiful game.”
The DOJ said $32.3 million in forfeited funds has been approved for an initial distribution to FIFA, CONCACAF, CONMEBOL and a number of national associations.
It is understood that the manner of accounted distribution of these monies had to be agreed formally with the football bodies before the US DoJ would sign the cheques.
A FIFA statement said a specific World Football Remission Fund would be operated under the auspices of the quasi-independent FIFA Foundation which has “earmarked amounts to projects within CONCACAF and CONMEBOL, given that they suffered significantly as a result of the criminal activities.”
Infantino said: “I am delighted to see that money which was illegally siphoned out of football is now coming back to be used for its proper purposes, as it should have been in the first place.
“I want to sincerely thank the US Justice authorities for their efforts in this respect, for their fast and effective approach in bringing these matters to a conclusion, and also for their trust in general.
“The truth is that, thanks to their intervention back in 2015, we have been able to fundamentally change FIFA from a toxic organisation at the time, to a highly esteemed and trusted global sports governing body.”
As for any corporate regret? . . . Rien de rien.