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$129 million in bribes alleged in soccer corruption case

Nicolas Leoz
Norberto Duarte | AFP | Getty Images
Nicolas Leoz

It's transfer season in the Premier League, which means exorbitant sums of money are being lavished on soccer stars. This is nothing new, so what's another $60 million between globally supported clubs?

There's another complacency born from redundancy in international soccer: the outrageous piles of cash being embezzled by executives. The corruption in FIFA has been well documented here—and only seems to be getting worse, as the U.S. Department of Justice continues untangling the intricate web of money laundering.

The latest allegation comes courtesy of South America's governing body, CONMEBOL, which charges three consecutive former presidents with looting the federation's coffers of more than $129 million. The criminal complaint—made by CONMEBOL to the Paraguayan attorney general's office and reported by the Associated Press—accuses Nicolas Leoz, Eugenio Figueredo, and Juan Angel Napout of wrongdoing. Leoz held the post from 1986-2013, followed by the other two for a year apiece.

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"The operations found by the audit show that CONMEBOL's patrimony was greatly affected by an ongoing, unfair and fraudulent management scheme," according to the complaint.

As InsideTheGames put it, the three are alleged to have committed "money laundering, embezzlement and forgery, among other offenses." Oh, is that all?

"The fallout of soccer corruption continues at a steady pace, and one wonders what lessons FIFA itself has learned after unceremoniously purging its ethics chiefs in a surprise move last month."

All three have also been indicted by the DOJ. Leoz is under house arrest in Paraguay and fighting extradition to the U.S. Bloomberg noted that Figueredo is also under house arrest, in Uruguay, and is cooperating with authorities after a guilty plea to corruption charges while Napout, who appeared in U.S. court to deny the allegations, has not yet stood trial.

"We have proof that the money was diverted from CONMEBOL by a network of world corruption," a lawyer from CONMEBOL told the Brazilian newspaper O Globo. "We now want the authorities to investigate where it went and how it was used."

This follows news that Héctor Trujillo, a Guatemalan judge who served as secretary general of his country's soccer federation, recently pleaded guilty to wire fraud and corruption charges. While many other officials were arrested on raids at a hotel in Switzerland in advance of FIFA meetings, Trujillo was detained on a Walt Disney cruise ship, as it docked in Florida.

That followed a guilty plea from Costas Takkas, who previously served as an aide to the North American federation (CONCACAF) president, for similar charges. Reuters also reported that Swiss bank Julius Baer has said that former banker Jorge Arzuaga allegedly acted as a lone wolf in using the bank to supply kickbacks to soccer officials. Arzuaga is expected to plead guilty, the wire service noted, and a bank spokesman said he "never told anyone at the bank that any account was being used as a conduit for bribes and that indeed he denied having such knowledge."

The fallout of soccer corruption continues at a steady pace, and one wonders what lessons FIFA itself has learned after unceremoniously purging its ethics chiefs in a surprise move last month. The odor you detect is that of scandal surrounding the sport—or maybe its just the stench left behind by disgraced ex-FIFA executive Chuck Blazer's cats, who apparently peed all over the floor of the $6,000-per-month apartment rented just for their use in Trump Tower, of all places.