News 30th December 2015

Figueredo: how South American Presidents took ‘easy money’

All 10 Presidents of the South American football federations picked up at least US$20,000 a month – and, in many cases, much more – in return for merely having signed off on ‘appropriate’ marketing and TV contracts. That damning revelation into the endemic corruption within the leadership of CONMEBOL has been volunteered by former FIFA vice-president Eugenio Figueredo, who ‘rewarded himself’ with more than twice as much while confederation supremo.

The fall-out from Figueredo’s admissions, as he seeks a deal with prosecutors in Uruguay after his extradition from Switzerland, could reach as far as Angel Maria Villar, the veteran head of the Spanish federation, first Vice President of European governing body UEFA and a senior VP of scandal-scarred world authority FIFA. The connection runs through family lines: Villar’s son, Gorka, is Director General of CONMEBOL. He faces allegations of his own (which he denies) concerning another TV cash scandal. Juan Gomez, a Uruguyan prosecutor who specialises in organised crime, has alleged that Villar Sr knew all about it.

Zurich arrests

Figueredo, 83, was one of the Zurich Seven who were arrested on May 27 by Swiss police on an extradition application from the United States. Uruguay then also sought his extradition and the Swiss ruled that Figueredo’s home authorities had precedence because their own legal investigation had been launched earlier.

Figueredo arrived back in Uruguay last Thursday. He was detained in prison, transferred to hospital after complaining of heart problems, but is now back in prison pending a house arrest bail application from his lawyers. The former Uruguay federation president was sued for corruption initially in Uruguay in 2013 by the players’ union (Asociación de Clubes y la Mutualidad de Jugadores Profesionales), supported by eight clubs (Penarol, Miramar Misiones, El Tanque Sisley, Juventud, Cerro Largo, Cerro, Rentistas and Racing).

They claimed having been defrauded of monies due from CONMEBOL’s TV contracts for the two main South American club competitions (Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana). Subsequently, prosecutors launched an inquiry into allegations that the clubs had settled out of court after being threatened with international bans by Gorka Villar. Gomez said Gorka Villar’s actions had benefited from the “security of his relationship with his father”. Villar is based in Asuncion, Paraguay, where CONMEBOL has its headquarters; Gomez has asked him to appoint a Uruguayan lawyer for liaison in the investigation.

US investigation

Meanwhile, now that Figueredo is back in Montevideo, the focus has reverted to the steady unravelling of the South American connection to the US investigation into the $200m FIFAGate corruption scandal. Gomez released a deposition in which Figueredo told Judge Adriana de los Santos of his long-term involvement in corruption at CONMEBOL, of which he became a Vice President in 1993.

The prosecutor added: “From the time he became a member of the executive committee, he received huge sums of money from plans hatched by various members of CONMEBOL with the objective of maintaining a complex web of corruption”. Their ‘system’ made it impossible for contractors to win tenders honestly for CONMEBOL’S marketing and TV rights. The size of the ‘commissions’ may be judged from Figueredo’s admission that he received $40,000 a month from broadcasters which was invested in property transactions. Not only him, either.

Similar sums

He said that while he was President from 2013 to 2015, the 10 presidents of the CONMEBOL federations also received similar sums. This had risen over decades from $5,000-a-month originally to at least $20,000-a-month (plus their daily allowances and travel expenses). In addition, they had all shared a $400,000 ‘commission’ from a long-term deal with the Argentinian telecommunications agency Full Play Group for broadcast right to World Cup qualifiers and the Copa America.

Figueredo said he withdrew $40,000 each month from CONMEBOL which was not recorded in the balance sheets plus a further $50,000 each month from the Argentinian marketing agency Torneos y Competencias. It was “easy money” which had been shared around ‘for decades’.

One further comment from Figueredo has raised eyebrows, particularly, in Uruguay. He had said that “all Presidents” of CONMEBOL federations received the monthly payments. This would implicate Sebastian Bauza, the recently-ousted president of the Uruguayan federation, who had never been mentioned previously in association with the CONMEBOL scandals. Bauza has consistently denied any wrongdoing or knowledge of corruption at the top of CONMEBOL.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Other recent CONMEBOL federation Presidents:

Luis Bedoya (was Colombia federation President, CONMEBOL Vice President and FIFA Executive Committee member):

Pleaded guilty in the US to racketeering and wire fraud conspiracy; has agreed to forfeit all money deposited in his Swiss bank account

Manuel Burga (was President of the Peru federation):

Detained in Lima on a FIFAGate corruption indictment from the US DoJ;

Carlos Chavez (federation President in Bolivia as well as CONMEBOL Treasurer):

Indicted by the US while already detained in Bolivia on charges of misconduct in office;

Luis Chiriboga (was Ecuador federation President):

Currently detained under house arrest in Ecuador after being named in the latest US indictment;

Marco Polo Del Nero (Brazilian federation President, recently removed as CONMEBOL delegate to the FIFA Executive Committee):

Indicted last month by the US, denies all wrongdoing but has stood down ‘temporarily’ from the Presidency of the CBF;

Rafael Esquivel (was President of the Venezuelan federation):

Arrested in Switzerland last May and appealing against the granting of an extradition application from the United States;

Julio Grondona (late former federation President in  Argentina and first Vice President and Chairman of FIFA’s finance committee):

Long suspected of illicit financial manoeuvring but never charged and died in July 2014 shortly after returning home after the World Cup;

Sergio Jadue (was Chile federation President):

Has pleaded guilty in the US to racketeering, conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy.

Jose Maria Marin (was Brazil CBF President and head of the local organising committee of the 2014 FIFA World Cup):

Extradited from Switzerland by the US DoJ, currently on bail and house arrest in New York;

Jose Luis Meiszner (CONMEBOL Secretary General):

Indicted by the US, interviewed by police in Argentina and appealing for the right to house arrest;

Juan Angel Napout (was President of the both the Paraguayan federation and CONMEBOL):

Arrested by Swiss police last month at the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich on a US extradition warrant.

• This article was originally published on Keir Radnedge’s internet site on 28 December 2015. To access the original, please click here.

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