Sports

FIFA ex-VP ‘took $50,000 a month in bribes’

MONTEVIDEO: Fallen FIFA vice president Eugenio Figueredo received $50,000 a month in “improper payments” from sports marketing companies, authorities in his native Uruguay alleged Tuesday in an indictment.

The 83-year-old ex-football boss, one of seven top FIFA officials arrested at a Zurich luxury hotel in May, received “hefty sums” each month to ensure firms retained their exclusive broadcast rights to various South American tournaments, said the indictment published by a Uruguayan court.

Figueredo, who was extradited from Switzerland to Uruguay last week, faces charges of fraud and money laundering, and is currently in jail pending trial.

Detailing their case against him, prosecutors said records showed Figueredo received not only a monthly salary of $40,000 as president of South American football confederation CONMEBOL, but also $50,000 a month in bribes, which he invested in Uruguayan real estate.

The indictment said the sources of the illicit cash included Argentine firms Full Play and Torneos y Competencias, as well as Cayman Islands-registered T&T sports, all of which are in the cross-hairs of the US investigation that unleashed the corruption scandal roiling world football.

It said Figueredo had admitted to accepting more than $400,000 from Full Play to protect the company from competition for the TV rights to tournaments.

He told the court the presidents of South America’s 10 national football associations all received similar payments, it said.

Figueredo used “ploys and deceit to the detriment of Uruguayan clubs and professional footballers,” said the indictment.

“These ploys aimed to maintain the status quo that had reigned for years at CONMEBOL and which resulted in avoiding new offers and/or companies for the sale of television rights to the different tournaments.”

The tournaments involved included the continent’s top money-maker, the Copa Libertadores, as well as the under-17 and under-20 youth championships, it said.

Figueredo faces two to 15 years in prison if convicted. His lawyer has said she will request house arrest because he is in poor health.

He had agreed to be extradited to Uruguay, but was fighting extradition to the United States.

The head of the Uruguayan Football Association from 1997 to 2006, Figueredo became CONMEBOL president in 2013.

CONMEBOL’s last three presidents have all been arrested in the scandal, plunging the South American confederation into crisis.

Spanish connection

Presiding judge Adriana de los Santos, who signed Figueredo’s indictment, also asked authorities in Paraguay, where CONMEBOL is headquartered, to notify a “Mr. G.V.” that he must appear before the court within 10 days.

The lead prosecutor on the case told AFP the initials refer to Spanish national Gorka Villar, CONMEBOL’s secretary general and the son of Angel Maria Villar, the president of the Spanish Football Federation and a vice president of both FIFA and European football governing body UEFA.

FIFA fined the elder Villar last month for failing to cooperate with investigations into the bidding process for the 2018 World Cup.

A Paraguayan newspaper reported that the younger Villar had fled to Spain after learning he was facing corruption charges in Uruguay.

Citing “highly reliable sources,” newspaper ABC said Villar and three associates slipped into CONMEBOL’s offices late at night two weeks ago and burned sheaves of incriminating documents.

The daily said the documents were linked to Villar’s theft of some $525,000 from the confederation’s accounts.

The spiralling scandal in football has left the reputations of many of the sport’s top officials in tatters.

A total of 39 people and two companies have been charged by US authorities in connection with the scandal.

The world football governing body banned disgraced president Sepp Blatter last week for eight years over ethics violations.

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