Former Soccer Official Costas Takkas Sentenced to 15 Months In Prison for Laundering Millions Of Dollars in Bribes
Earlier today, in federal court in Brooklyn, former Cayman Islands soccer official Costas Takkas was sentenced to 15 months of incarceration by United States District Judge Pamela K. Chen following his money laundering conspiracy guilty plea on May 24, 2017. Takkas was convicted of this offense in connection with his agreement to launder $3 million in bribes to be paid by sports marketing companies to Jeffrey Webb, the former president of CONCACAF, $2 million of which reached Webb through Takkas. Takkas was also ordered to pay $3 million in restitution to the Caribbean Football Union, known as CFU, as part of his sentence.
Bridget M. Rohde, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), and R. Damon Rowe, Special Agent-in-Charge, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, Los Angeles Field Office (IRS-CI) announced the sentence.
“The defendant Costas Takkas has now been held to account for using the U.S. financial system to launder millions of dollars in bribes as part of the corruption of international soccer,” stated Acting United States Attorney Rohde. “This Office, together with our law enforcement partners at the FBI and IRS-CI, will continue to bring to justice those who seek to use the U.S. financial system to hide criminal conduct and its proceeds.” Ms. Rohde also thanked the United States Department of Justice Office of International Affairs, Organized Crime and Gang Section and Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section for their assistance in the case, and expressed her appreciation to the governments of the Cayman Islands, Switzerland, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines for their cooperation.
“The soccer officials involved in all aspects of FIFA take an oath to adhere to a code of ethics, and they accept a responsibility to make sure monies go to the groups they represent, not to line their own pockets,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney. “The game of soccer will continue to be played in small neighborhood parks and in lavish stadiums around the world, but the FBI’s wide-ranging and vast investigation won’t end until everyone involved in every aspect of corruption and bribery are brought to justice.”
“Over a three-year period, Takkas undermined the process of fair and open competition when he conspired to secretly funnel bribe money to Webb through a series of transactions involving international wire transfers and U.S. financial institutions,” stated IRS-CI Special Agent-in-Charge Rowe. “IRS Criminal Investigation is committed to aggressively investigating individuals who use offshore entities, foreign bank accounts, and wire transfer systems based in the U.S. to facilitate the laundering of illicit funds. Working with our partners at the Department of Justice, we will continue to unmask money laundering intermediaries who enable corrupt practices to flourish.”
The sport of soccer is governed worldwide by the Féderation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), FIFA’s constituent continental confederations (including CONCACAF, the confederation covering North America, Central America and the Caribbean), and FIFA’s constituent national member associations (which are also known as federations). Some confederations, such as CONCACAF, include regional football subgroups within them, including the Caribbean Football Union (CFU), which is composed of federations from the Caribbean region. Since 2004, soccer officials have been bound by FIFA’s code of ethics, which, among other things, imposes a fiduciary duty on soccer officials in favor of the soccer organizations they represent.
The CFU member federations owned the media and marketing rights to soccer matches played in their home territories during the qualifying stages for the men’s World Cup tournament. Rather than sell portions of these rights separately as individual federations, the CFU federations agreed to bundle portions of their rights together for sale. The CFU, like many other soccer governing bodies, typically sold these rights to sports marketing companies that served as middlemen, which in turn sold different portions of the rights to different broadcasters and media companies around the world.
The CFU Rights Bribery and Laundering Scheme
The defendant was a longtime associate of Jeffrey Webb, who in 2012 was the president of the Cayman Islands Football Association (CIFA, which was a member of the CFU), a high-ranking official of the CFU, and the president of CONCACAF. Around that time, an executive of Traffic USA, a sports marketing company based in Miami, began negotiations with Webb to purchase the bundled media and marketing rights to the CFU federations’ World Cup qualifier matches for the 2018 and 2022 cycles. The defendant communicated on Webb’s behalf to the Traffic executive that Webb wanted a $3 million bribe in exchange for awarding these rights to Traffic. The Traffic executive agreed, and a few months later, after Webb had appointed the Traffic executive to serve as secretary general of CONCACAF, Traffic and the CFU entered into a contract for the sale of these rights. Meanwhile, the defendant began to work with the Traffic executive to determine how Traffic could pay Webb this bribe while disguising the true nature of the payments.
The defendant had meetings with other Traffic executives both in Miami and in Brazil, where Traffic’s parent company was located, to make arrangements for Traffic to secretly make these bribe payments to Webb. Following these meetings, in November 2012, Traffic wired $1.2 million from a bank account in Florida to a middleman’s bank account in Hong Kong, from which $1 million of these funds were wired to an account in the Cayman Islands owned by Kosson Ventures, Limited, a company the defendant controlled. In December 2012, Traffic wired an additional $500,000 to the Caymanian bank account of CPL Limited, another company the defendant controlled. In the course of receiving these funds, the defendant made false statements about them, and the accounts receiving them, to Caymanian bank employees. The defendant also created bogus consulting contracts purportedly to justify the payments.
After receiving these funds in the Caymanian accounts, the defendant conveyed them to Webb and the Traffic executive, or spent the funds for their benefit. For example, after wiring some of the funds to a Citibank account he held in Florida in his own name, Takkas used funds in that account to pay for real estate in Georgia that Webb was purchasing, and for a swimming pool at Webb’s house in Georgia. During the course of the scheme, the defendant lied to a Citibank employee about the payment for the swimming pool, saying that the swimming pool was a wedding gift for Webb. Takkas also used these funds to pay for luxury leather goods and watches for Webb and the Traffic executive, and a kitchen remodeling and expensive painting for the Traffic executive.
Also in 2012, Traffic entered an agreement with another Miami-based sports marketing company named Media World, whereby the two companies pooled the media and marketing rights they had obtained for World Cup qualifier matches in the CONCACAF region, and shared responsibility for associated costs. As part of that agreement, Media World agreed to be responsible for half of the $3 million bribe that Traffic had agreed to pay Webb for the CFU media rights. The defendant met with a Media World executive in Miami on several occasions to discuss how Media World could pay this bribe in a hidden manner. Eventually, the defendant and Media World arranged for $500,000 to be sent from a Panamanian front company to various accounts in the United States, the Cayman Islands, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, again using bogus consulting contracts to mask the true nature of the bribe payments. The defendant spent some of these funds to benefit Webb before the scheme was stopped, first by concerns about the government’s investigation and then by the disclosure of the scheme in May 2015 by the initial indictment in this case.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s FIFA Task Force. Assistant United States Attorneys Paul Tuchmann, Samuel P. Nitze, M. Kristin Mace, Keith D. Edelman, Kaitlin T. Farrell, and Brian D. Morris are in charge of the prosecution.
Citizenship: United Kingdom
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 15-CR-252 (PKC)
 The information described below is set forth in various court filings and statements made during court appearances in this case and related cases.