Argentine sports marketing company Torneos y Competencias S.A. has settled charges in U.S. federal court regarding allegations of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The settlement is in connection with the ongoing Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) corruption scandal. Torneos admitted to the payment of millions of dollars to FIFA officials, which were made as part of a bribery and kickback scheme, to secure Torneos broadcast rights for the 2018, 2022, 2026, and 2030 FIFA World Cups.
Torneos admitted to the bribery of high-ranking FIFA officials in order to obtain marketing and media rights to various soccer tournaments and matches. Torneos also admitted to additional acts of bribery, including the bribery of FIFA confederations CONCACAF and CONMEBOL, as well as national member associations, such as the Argentine national soccer federation. The kickbacks and bribes were concealed through use of sham contracts, invoices, and shell companies. Third party actors, including middlemen and bankers, also worked to the launder the funds.
Torneos has committed to a four-year deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The DPA mandates that Torneos cooperate with the U.S. government’s ongoing investigation. The company has stated that the Justice Department “agreed not to pursue a prosecution of Torneos based on its ‘full’ and ‘substantial’ cooperation with the Justice Department investigation, and its ‘extensive’ efforts to implement a state-of-the-art compliance program.” Per terms of the settlement, Torneos will continue to enhance its compliance program and internal controls, as well as pay $112.8 million in forfeiture and criminal penalties.
The FIFA corruption scandal is far-reaching and to date has entangled numerous individuals, corporations, and FIFA officials from 20 countries. Since May 2015, the DOJ has been investigating systemic corruption within the world soccer federation. The probe has resulted in the indictment of 42 individuals on corruption, wire fraud, and racketeering charges. In 2015, corporate defendants Traffic Sports International Inc. and Traffic Sports USA Inc., two subsidiaries of Brazilian multinational sports marketing conglomerate Traffic Group, also pleaded guilty to corruption charges related to the FIFA probe.
For more information on anti-corruption and anti-bribery, please see CREATe’s many resources.