Under new leadership, the governing body of world football has for the first time admitted its officials participated in “bribery, kickbacks and corrupt schemes”.
On Wednesday (AEDT), FIFA submitted a 22-page claim to the US Attorney’s Office in New York seeking a share of the growing pile of US$190 million (A$255 million) of dirty money that US authorities hope to recover.
FIFA claimed it was owed a share of the money because its corrupt officials used their positions of power to steal money owed to the organisation. As part of the compensation claim, FIFA’s current officials acknowledged for the first time that the 1998 and 2010 World Cup bids were rigged.
“It is now apparent that multiple members of FIFA’s Executive Committee abused their positions and sold their votes on multiple occasions,” the court document report said.
“Over many years, the defendants grossly abused their positions of trust to enrich themselves, while causing significant direct and proximate harm to FIFA.
“The defendants … deeply tarnished the FIFA brand and impaired FIFA’s ability to use its resources for positive actions throughout the world.”
The world football body claimed it was owed the money from 41 former officials, including former executive committee member Jack Warner (who was banned for life but denies wrongdoing) and Chuck Blazer (who pled guilty to racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering).
FIFA’s court document alleged that Warner accepted a bribe to vote for Morocco’s failed bid to host the 1998 World Cup and that Warner and Blazer also accepted a bribe to vote for South Africa’s successful bid to host the 2010 Cup. It did not mention the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosting rights awarded to Russia and Qatar, which are also under a cloud.
FIFA’s request for compensation is likely to be contentious, given the seniority of the officials involved. US authorities may argue that the body had ‘dirty hands’, in that its internal culture allowed such crimes, and thus is not entitled to the money.
It is also unclear whether the US authorities have actually seized any money. It is understood that ex-FIFA officials have agreed to repay US$190 million, but whether this money can be recovered is another matter.
FIFA’s compensation claim amounts to an internal war between newly elected president Gianni Infantino and the outgoing administration of Sepp Blatter.
Already, accused officials have hit back. Ricardo Teixeira, former head of the Brazilian Football Confederation, has promised to sue FIFA for its accusation.
“I am going to sue them for moral damages in Zurich,” Mr Teixeira told Brazil sporting website Globoesporte on Wednesday.
“They throw this thing in the air. I don’t know anything about this suit against me, this unreasonable request.”
Notably, former European football president Michel Platini was not mentioned in the court document, despite his six year ban imposed in February for ethics violations. Mr Teixeira accused FIFA of double-standards by not going after the powerful ex-administrator.