Remarks as prepared for delivery
Good afternoon, and thank you all for being here. I know for many of you, the horrific events of San Bernardino are at the top of your mind. I do want to take a moment before we begin to address yesterday’s shooting. The FBI has a leadership role in the investigation, working in conjunction with state and local law enforcement, as well as the ATF and U.S. Marshals Service. And as this investigation unfolds, we intend to provide any and all assistance necessary to local authorities and to the people of San Bernardino who have been so profoundly affected by this unspeakable crime.
As I said this morning, I know that I stand with all Americans when I say that my thoughts and prayers – and those of my colleagues at every level of the Department of Justice – are with the families and loved ones of the victims, and with the brave public safety officials who put themselves in harm’s way in order to save others.
I am joined today by U.S. Attorney [Robert] Capers of the Eastern District of New York, Director [James] Comey of the FBI and Chief of Investigation [Richard] Weber of the IRS’s Criminal Investigation Division. Six months ago, the Department of Justice announced a 47-count indictment charging 14 defendants with pervasive and long-running conspiracies in the world of organized soccer. We alleged that the defendants – including high-ranking FIFA officials; leaders of governing bodies under the FIFA umbrella; and sports marketing executives – had corrupted the business of worldwide soccer to serve their interests and enrich themselves. We stated our determination to end these practices; to root out corruption; and to bring wrongdoers to justice. And we pledged to work with our partners around the world to hold additional co-conspirators and corrupt individuals accountable.
Today, we are announcing a superseding indictment, which includes new charges against new defendants, as well as additional arrests and guilty pleas in connection with our ongoing investigation. A federal grand jury in Brooklyn has returned a 92-count superseding indictment, which includes charges against 16 new defendants, all of whom are current or former soccer officials. These defendants include the sitting presidents of two of FIFA’s six continental soccer confederations – CONCACAF, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean, and CONMEBOL, which covers South America. Both of these defendants, Alfredo Hawit of Honduras and Juan Ángel Napout of Paraguay, are also FIFA vice presidents and members of its executive committee. In addition, the superseding indictment charges high-ranking officials of other soccer governing bodies, including current and former presidents of national soccer federations in Central and South America. Each of the 16 new defendants is charged with racketeering conspiracy and other crimes in connection with their sustained abuse of their positions for financial gain.
Earlier today, Swiss authorities arrested two of the new defendants, Alfredo Hawit and Juan Angel Napout, as they gathered to attend FIFA meetings in Zurich. We are now working to extradite those defendants to the United States, just as we are working to secure the arrest and extradition of additional defendants residing in other countries.
In addition to naming new defendants, the superseding indictment also expands the bribery and corruption charges set forth in the original indictment unsealed last May. In the original indictment, we alleged that between 1991 and the present, two generations of soccer officials conspired to solicit and receive well over $200 million, often through an alliance with sports marketing executives who sought to obtain lucrative contracts and shut out competitors through the systematic payment of bribes and kickbacks. We also alleged bribes and kickbacks in connection with the sponsorship of the Brazilian soccer federation by a major U.S. sportswear company, the selection of the host country for the 2010 World Cup and the 2011 FIFA presidential election.
The new charges highlight corruption schemes principally involving soccer officials in Central and South America and sports-marketing companies based in South America and the United States. Consistent with the intergenerational nature of the corruption schemes, they involve payments relating to tournaments that have already been played, as well as matches scheduled into the next decade – including multiple cycles of FIFA World Cup qualifiers and international friendly matches involving six Central American member associations; a bribery scheme relating to the sale of broadcasting rights implicating nearly all of the top CONMEBOL officials; and an Argentinian sports marketing company’s scheme to bribe Central American soccer officials. Not content to hijack the world’s most popular sport for decades of ill-gotten gains, these defendants, as alleged, sought to institutionalize their corruption to ensure that it lived on, not for the good of the game but for their own personal aggrandizement and gain.
The roles of several of the defendants in these schemes illustrate the depth as well as the persistence of the alleged corruption. The defendant Héctor Trujillo currently serves as a judge on the Constitutional Court of Guatemala, purportedly dispensing justice by day while allegedly soliciting bribes and selling his influence within FIFA. Another, Alfredo Hawit, ascended to the position of CONCACAF president that was left open when we charged his predecessor with corruption in May – and then, as alleged, assumed the mantle of those same corrupt practices. The defendant Ariel Alvarado is a member of FIFA’s Disciplinary Committee, entrusted with stamping out the corrupt behavior in which he is now alleged to be involved.
The betrayal of trust set forth here is outrageous. The scale of corruption alleged herein is unconscionable. And the message from this announcement should be clear to every culpable individual who remains in the shadows, hoping to evade our investigation: You will not wait us out. You will not escape our focus.
Many have already heeded that warning. Today, I can report that eight additional defendants have agreed to plead guilty for their involvement in the corruption schemes we have outlined. After the initial charges were filed in May, these eight defendants came forward and accepted responsibility for their criminal conduct. Five of them were not named in the original indictment. As I have stated before, anyone who seeks to live in the past and to return soccer to its old ways is on the wrong side of progress, and does a disservice to the integrity of this beautiful sport. The Department of Justice is committed to ending the rampant corruption we have described amidst the leadership of international soccer – not only because of the scale of the schemes alleged earlier and today, or the brazenness and breadth of the operation required to sustain such corruption, but also because of the affront to international principles that this behavior represents.
After all, global sports like soccer exemplify, in FIFA’s own words, “unifying, educational, cultural and humanitarian values.” They are one of the primary ways we teach our children about character, about fair play and about teamwork. International tournaments promote understanding between nations, and embody an acknowledgement of our common humanity – something that is desperately important, particularly in these times of global challenge. That’s why this investigation does more than address corruption in a worldwide sports organization. It also reaffirms the ideals that have always guided our society – and, most importantly, our young people – toward the fair and just future they deserve. This Department of Justice intends to uphold those values – throughout this ongoing investigation, and always.
I want to thank our international partners – particularly the Swiss authorities – for the close cooperation and invaluable assistance they continue to provide. They have been instrumental in bringing these wrongdoers to justice and helping to restore the integrity of a vital athletic tradition. Today’s action also relied on the tireless work of federal investigators and prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, in the FBI’s New York Field Office and in the Los Angeles Field Office of the IRS’s Criminal Investigation Division. I am so grateful to all of the agents, analysts and attorneys who continue to devote their time and their talents to this important investigation.
At this time, I’d like to introduce U.S. Attorney Capers, who has done an outstanding job leading this effort since his appointment in October, and who will provide additional details on today’s announcement.