A former Swiss banker has admitted paying millions of dollars in bribes to Julio Grondona, a former senior executive at Fifa, chairman of football’s world governing body’s finance committee and president of the Argentinian football association.
Jorge Luis Arzuaga, 56, who pleaded guilty on Thursday to money laundering charges following the US investigation into Fifa-related corruption, admitted opening bank accounts in Switzerland for Grondona and channelling up to $25m (£19.5m) in bribes to him and other high-ranking Fifa officials from a TV rights marketing company, Torneos, based in Argentina. Arzuaga has admitted to being paid $1.046m for facilitating this corruption, which he has agreed to forfeit to the authorities.
The criminal indictment of Arzuaga issued by the US Department of Justice does not identify Grondona by name, but says “Soccer official #1” was a major recipient of bribes from Torneos, in return for helping them obtain football TV rights. Soccer official #1 is described as “a high-ranking official of Fifa, Conmebol [the South America football confederation], and the Asociación del Fútbol Argentina (AFA)”, who died in 2014.
Grondona was the president of the AFA from 1979, a key powerbroker on Fifa’s executive committee from 1988 and close ally of the former president Sepp Blatter, who praised him for his work as the chair of Fifa’s finance committee. Grondona died in 2014, aged 82. He was already identifiable in the US indictments as one of the Fifa and South American football executives accused of pocketing millions of dollars in bribes but Arzuaga’s guilty plea adds substantial detail to the accusations.
The indictment states Arzuaga became involved in the corrupt payment of bribes from Torneos to Grondona and other football officials as recently as 2010, when he was working at an affiliate of a Swiss bank, which is not named.
It states he was approached in 2010 by Alejandro Burzaco, the president of Torneos, and the unnamed boss of another marketing company, to open a Swiss bank account for Grondona. He was then introduced to Grondona as “our banker”, then proceeded to channel the payment of huge bribes to Grondona while working for the Swiss bank, and at another bank, which the indictment also does not name.
The indictment states Arauaga “knew it would be extremely difficult to open a bank account for Soccer Official #1 given Soccer Official #1’s reputation for corruption”, so he concealed Grondona as the recipient of the money. He regularly met Grondona to update him about how much money was in the Swiss bank accounts, the indictment states.
Burzaco, who is accused of paying the bribes and kickbacks when securing TV and marketing rights to multiple South American football tournaments, pleaded guilty last year.
The Swiss office of the attorney general (OAG) said in a statement it too had concluded criminal proceedings against Arzuaga for the offences committed in Switzerland, document forgery and violation of the duty to report money laundering. His payments for those offences, $650,000, will be forfeited to the Swiss government.
The OAG said in cooperation with the US DOJ, it is continuing 25 separate investigations into alleged corruption committed by senior figures within Fifa, having received 178 reports of alleged money laundering, and is analysing documents amounting to 19 terabytes of data.
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