Monday, Dec. 11, 2023 |
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NEW YORK (AP) — The upcoming sentencing of a former Guatemalan judge in a federal court in New York City is the latest chapter in the sprawling corruption scandal that’s engulfed FIFA, soccer’s global governing body.
Here’s what you need to know:
HOW IT BEGAN
FIFA had been scarred by scandals for years before U.S. investigators launched a probe that gained momentum after they secured the cooperation of flamboyant former FIFA executive Chuck Blazer in 2011. Before his death earlier this year, Blazer wore a wire and gathered evidence against other officials who embezzled cash from commercial contracts and sought payments in return for backing countries as World Cup hosts. The investigators also followed a money trail that began with a series of suspicious bank transactions in New York City.
The U.S. investigation exploded into public view in 2015 with a raid on a Zurich hotel ahead of the annual gathering of soccer countries. Since then, U.S. prosecutors have brought charges against more than 40 soccer officials, marketing executives, associates and entities. Many were extradited to New York, where they pleaded guilty to charges they corrupted the sport for nearly a quarter century by taking tens of millions of dollars in bribes and payoffs. Hector Trujillo, 63, formerly a leader of Guatemala’s soccer federation, is scheduled to be the first soccer official sentenced in the U.S. case on Wednesday after admitting he accepted nearly $200,000 from a company trying to secure sports marketing contracts.
THREE OFFICIALS SET FOR TRIAL
Some of the cooperators could emerge as witnesses at a trial slated to begin next month in federal court in Brooklyn. The three defendants — former South American soccer officials Juan Angel Napout, Jose Maria Marin and Manuel Burga — have pleaded not guilty to bribery, racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering. A judge recently granted prosecutors’ request to use evidence from witnesses who have said they were asked to mislead investigators, hide computers and delete files on a server amid the crackdown.
WHERE IT’S GOING
Federal law enforcement authorities in Switzerland, the United States, and France are forging ahead with the investigation of FIFA and the 2018-2022 World Cup bidding contests. Switzerland’s attorney general announced earlier this month that the Qatari president of one of Europe’s most glamorous soccer clubs, Paris Saint-Germain, is a target. FIFA has said it “fully supports” the investigation. It has cast itself as a victim of the fraud that’s deserving of a share of the more than $200 million held by the U.S. Department of Justice, which secured forfeits from soccer and marketing officials in its ongoing probe.
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