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US authorities find alleged bribery in soccer tournament contracts in Brazil

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) is investigating officers of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and corporate executives for involvement in alleged fraud in connection with the choice of the host countries for the two upcoming FIFA World Soccer Cups (Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022).

But the investigations found evidence of illegal dealings in other countries as well. In Brazil, suspicion falls on marketing and media contracts signed by the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) for the Copa do Brasil national tournament.

According to a DOJ statement released Wednesday (May 27), “most of the schemes alleged in the indictment relate to the solicitation and receipt of bribes and kickbacks by soccer officials from sports marketing executives in connection with the commercialization of the media and marketing rights associated with various soccer matches and tournaments.” One of the events cited is the Copa do Brasil, organized by the CBF. The note went on to mention “the payment and receipt of bribes and kickbacks in connection with the sponsorship of CBF by a major U.S. sportswear company.” Currently, Nike is CBF’s official sponsor.

Three Brazilian nationals have been implicated by the Department of Justice. Besides former CBF president José Maria Marin, arrested in Zurich, Switzerland, on Wednesday, the document cited José Hawilla, owner of the Traffic Group, a Brazilian sports marketing conglomerate, and José Margulies, who owns sports broadcasting companies.

The reporter tried unsuccessfully to contact CBF representatives over the alleged wrongdoing in sponsorship and media contracts for the Copa do Brasil. In a statement, the CBF said it “fully” supports the investigations conducted by US and Swiss authorities.

During a news conference in New York, US authorities revealed that the racketeering may involve over $150 million in bribes and kickbacks. In addition to José Maria Marin, another six FIFA officers were arrested Wednesday in Zurich: Jeffrey Webb (Cayman Islands), Eduardo Li (Costa Rica), Julio Rocha (Nicaragua), Costas Takkas (United Kingdom), Eugenio Figueredo (Uruguay) and Rafael Esquivel (Venezuela).

The arrests were made at a hotel where the FIFA executives were participating in a FIFA Congress to choose the next FIFA president on Friday (29). Current FIFA President Joseph Blatter is running for a fifth term and is seen as a favorite in the election.

Earlier on, FIFA Communications Director Walter de Gregório said the election and the decision to host the next to World Cups in Russia and Qatar will be kept. He also added that Blatter is not targeted by the US investigation.

Translated by Mayra Borges

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