FIFA handed $201M in funds confiscated from corrupt officials
Paris, Aug 24, 2021 (AFP) - The U.S. Department of Justice has agreed to hand FIFA $201 million confiscated from corrupt football administrators, the governing body of world football announced on Tuesday.
Most of the cash comes from U.S. legal actions in the wake of the "FIFAgate" scandal, which erupted in May 2015 with the dramatic arrest of seven world football executives in Zurich and led a few months later to the departure of Sepp Blatter, FIFA's president since 1998.
"This money was seized from the bank accounts of former officials who were involved in, and then prosecuted for, years of corruption schemes in football," said FIFA in a statement on its website.
It said it had set up a "World Football Remission Fund" under the supervision of the FIFA Foundation to use the money "to help finance football-related projects with positive community impact across the globe".
Gianni Infantino, who replaced Blatter as the head of FIFA, welcomed the deal.
"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," Infantino said.
"It's great to see significant funding being put at the disposal of the FIFA Foundation, which can positively impact so many people across the football world, especially through youth and community programmes."
The cases prosecuted in the U.S. centered on bribes and "racketeering" organised by football officials in South and Central America in exchange for the awarding of TV broadcasting rights for competitions, including the Copa America.
They resulted in the sentencing of Paraguayan Juan Angel Napout, a former president of South American football's governing body CONMEBOL, to nine years in prison and Brazilian Jose Maria Marin, former head of the Brazilian Football Federation, to four years in prison.
A significant slice of cash will be funneled into South American football.
CONMEBOL said it would be receiving $71 million in recovered funds.
The funds "are being returned to CONMEBOL because it was a victim of the criminal scheme underlying the FIFAgate investigation," the governing body said in a statement.
The U.S. justice system continues to investigate world football, particularly the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar amid suspicions of vote buying.