Ever since the world federation’s darkest hour in 2015 when top soccer officials were arrested in a dawn raid at a luxury hotel in Zurich, FIFA and president Gianni Infantino have argued that they have been the victims of corruption and on Tuesday Zurich’s line of reasoning was followed when the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) said FIFA will receive over $201 million in forfeited funds seized during the corruption probe.
“Today’s announcement confirms that money stolen by corrupt soccer officials and sports marketing executives through fraud and greed will be returned to where it belongs and used to benefit the sport,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Jacquelyn M. Kasulis for the Eastern District of New York in a statement.
“From the start, this investigation and prosecution have been focused on bringing wrongdoers to justice and restoring ill-gotten gains to those who work for the benefit of the beautiful game.”
Sepp Blatter, long FIFA’s godfather, stepped down after the scandal in 2015. More than 40 administrators and executives in the soccer industry were indicted and earlier this week former El Salvador football federation boss Reynaldo Vasquez became the 27th man to plead guilty to fraud charges related to the sale of broadcast and marketing rights.
FIFA, led by Infantino since 2016, always maintained it was not the perpetrator but the victim of the crimes committed by a generation of corrupt soccer officials, some of whom sat on the governing body’s executive committee. The soccer body says it will share damages with both CONCACAF and CONMEBOL, the confederations responsible for soccer in North and Central America, and South America respectively. The DOJ said $32.3 million in forfeited funds has been approved for an initial distribution to the three soccer organizations.
FIFA president Infantino seized the opportunity to once again present FIFA as a reformed organization. In a statement, he said: “I am delighted to see that money which was illegally siphoned out of football is now coming back to be used for its proper purposes, as it should have been in the first place.”
MORE FOR YOU
“I want to sincerely thank the US Justice authorities for their efforts in this respect, for their fast and effective approach in bringing these matters to a conclusion, and also for their trust in general.
“The truth is that, thanks to their intervention back in 2015, we have been able to fundamentally change FIFA from a toxic organisation at the time, to a highly esteemed and trusted global sports governing body.”