US indictment charges Qatar with bribery over 2020 World Cup

Since May 2015, there have been 26 publicly announced guilty pleas into irregularities surrounding World Cup hosting bids.
Sunday 12/04/2020
The construction site of the Lusail stadium being built for the 2022 FIFA soccer World Cup  in Doha. (Reuters)
More than suspicions. The construction site of the Lusail stadium being built for the 2022 FIFA soccer World Cup  in Doha. (Reuters)

LONDON--Prosecutors have revealed new details of alleged bribes paid to FIFA executive committee members to gain their votes for Qatar to host the forthcoming 2022 World Cup.

An indictment unsealed on April 6 in the US District Court in Brooklyn alleged that Nicholas Leoz, former president of the South American governing body CONMEBOL, and former Brazilian federation president Ricardo Teixeira both received bribes to vote for Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup.

Their votes at the 2010 FIFA executive committee meeting were instrumental in ensuring that Qatar succeeded in winning the bid to host the World Cup. The Qatar bid beat a US bid to host the 2022 World Cup by 14-8.

“The profiteering and bribery in international soccer have been deep-seated and commonly known practices for decades,” William F. Sweeney Junior, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York field office, said in a statement.

The unsealed indictment revealed that Qatar was not the only country facing allegations of bribery and vote-buying. Russia, which won the bid to host the 2018 World Cup, is alleged to have paid Jack Warner, president of the North and Central American football body CONCACAF, who allegedly received $5 million to vote for its bid. While Guatemala football federation president Rafael Salguero was reportedly promised $1 million to vote for Russia.

In 2017, Alejandro Burzaco, former head of the marketing company Torneos y Competencias, formally testified that all three South American officials on the FIFA executive committee took bribes to support Qatar’s bid to host the 2022 World Cup.

Qatar has faced significant criticism for how it won the right to host the 2022 World Cup, with some observers calling for the Gulf country to be stripped of hosting duties.

Qatar has also faced criticism over its treatment of workers employed in the construction of stadiums to host the tournament. Migrant labourers have been forced to work long hours in the hot weather, causing hundreds to die from heat stress each year, according to an investigation by Britain’s Guardian newspaper.

The recent unsealed indictment also revealed new charges relating to bribery surrounding lucrative television rights and advertising contracts.

“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,” William F. Sweeney Junior, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York field office added.

“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,” he said.

Since the first indictments were announced from the corruption scandal in May 2015, there have been 26 publicly announced guilty pleas, many from former football officials.

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