NEW YORK, United States, Thursday December 3, 2015 – Former FIFA vice-president Jeffrey Webb of the Cayman Islands has pleaded guilty to corruption charges and agreed to give up US$6.7 million, while his successor was today slapped with similar charges.
Webb had pleaded not guilty to racketeering and bribery charges when he appeared in court in the United States in July, two months after he was arrested in Zurich with six other FIFA officials in a massive corruption scandal. He was released on US$10 million bail and placed under house arrest.
Today, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that Webb, who was also president of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF), changed his plea on November 23, pleading guilty to racketeering conspiracy, three counts of wire fraud conspiracy and three counts of money laundering conspiracy.
“As part of his plea, Webb agreed to forfeit more than $6.7 million,” a DOJ statement said, noting that Webb was one of eight defendants who admitted to various racketeering offences – seven of them last month and an eighth in May.
The DOJ statement that disclosed the guilty pleas was primarily issued to reveal that a 92-count superseding indictment was unsealed yesterday in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, charging an additional 16 high-ranking officials from FIFA with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies, among other offences, in connection with their alleged participation in a 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through the corruption of international soccer.
Among the new defendants is Alfredo Hawit of Honduras who replaced Webb as president of CONCACAF following his arrest.
He was arrested in Zurich along with president of South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL), Juan Ángel Napout of Paraguay.
Swiss police arrest two FIFA officials on suspicion of taking “millions of dollars” in bribes. https://t.co/oRyDPZS2s4
— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) December 3, 2015
Six months ago, the DOJ announced a 47-count indictment charging nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives for their roles in a long-running scheme to corrupt the sport, which included bribes and kickbacks totaling more than US$150 million that were paid or agreed to be paid to obtain media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments.
The new charges unsealed today bring the total number of individuals and entities charged to date to 41. Of those, 12 individuals and two sports marketing companies have already been convicted as a result of the ongoing investigation.
The convicted defendants have agreed to pay more than US$190 million in forfeiture. In addition, more than US$100 million has been restrained in the United States and abroad in connection with the alleged criminal activity.
The United States has issued mutual legal assistance requests seeking the restraint of assets located in 13 countries around the world.
“The Department of Justice is committed to ending the rampant corruption we have alleged amidst the leadership of international soccer – not only because of the scale of the schemes, or the brazenness and breadth of the operation required to sustain such corruption, but also because of the affront to international principles that this behavior represents,” said Attorney General Lynch as she announced the charges. “The message from this announcement should be clear to every culpable individual who remains in the shadows, hoping to evade our investigation: You will not wait us out. You will not escape our focus.”
Federal Bureau of Investigations New York Assistant Director in Charge, Diego Rodriguez, said the most recent wave of charges is one more step forward in the effort to level the playing field of soccer.
“When criminals bring their corrupt activity to our shores by using U.S. banks and U.S. companies to pay bribes and otherwise further their criminal objectives, they will play by our rules,” Rodriguez said.
Like the original indictment, the superseding indictment alleges that between 1991 and the present, the defendants and their co-conspirators corrupted the enterprise by engaging in various criminal activities, including fraud, bribery and money laundering.
Prosecutors allege that two generations of soccer officials abused their positions of trust for personal gain, frequently through an alliance with unscrupulous sports marketing executives who shut out competitors and kept highly lucrative contracts for themselves through the systematic payment of bribes and kickbacks.