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FIFA Says It Was Victim To Its Leaders, Asks For Millions In Restitution

A soccer ball covered with flags is painted on a wall in the township of Khayelitsha, South Africa. The image of South Africa's 2010 World Cup has been shattered by allegations that its bid over a decade ago was boosted by bribes of more than $10 million to secure FIFA votes — allegations FIFA addressed in Wednesday's request for restitution. i

A soccer ball covered with flags is painted on a wall in the township of Khayelitsha, South Africa. The image of South Africa's 2010 World Cup has been shattered by allegations that its bid over a decade ago was boosted by bribes of more than $10 million to secure FIFA votes — allegations FIFA addressed in Wednesday's request for restitution. Schalk van Zuydam/AP hide caption

toggle caption Schalk van Zuydam/AP
A soccer ball covered with flags is painted on a wall in the township of Khayelitsha, South Africa. The image of South Africa's 2010 World Cup has been shattered by allegations that its bid over a decade ago was boosted by bribes of more than $10 million to secure FIFA votes — allegations FIFA addressed in Wednesday's request for restitution.

A soccer ball covered with flags is painted on a wall in the township of Khayelitsha, South Africa. The image of South Africa's 2010 World Cup has been shattered by allegations that its bid over a decade ago was boosted by bribes of more than $10 million to secure FIFA votes — allegations FIFA addressed in Wednesday's request for restitution.

Schalk van Zuydam/AP

FIFA is requesting tens of millions of dollars in restitution, arguing that it was a victim of its corrupt leadership.

FIFA's Victim's Statement, filed to authorities in New York on Wednesday, contends that the embattled international soccer federation is a "global force for good." The organization is arguing that a group of disgraced leaders — rather than systemic corruption — is to blame for the onslaught of corruption and bribery allegations.

"Their actions have deeply tarnished the FIFA brand and impaired FIFA's ability to use its resources for positive actions throughout the world, and to meet its global mission of supporting and enhancing the game of football," the court document reads.

FIFA is asking for tens of millions in damages that defendants stand to pay after the conclusion of ongoing U.S.-based cases against more than 40 FIFA officials and other football organizations. A third of those defendants "have so far admitted to participating in longstanding bribery and kickback schemes," The New York Times reports.

"These dollars were meant to build football fields, not mansions and pools; to buy football kits, not jewellery and cars; and to fund youth player and coach development, not to underwrite lavish lifestyles for football and sports marketing executives," newly elected FIFA President Gianni Infantino said in a statement. "When FIFA recovers this money, it will be directed back to its original purpose: for the benefit and development of international football."

Here's a breakdown of what FIFA wants, according to court documents:

  • Tens of millions of dollars "at least" for reputational harm to FIFA.
  • At least $28 million for money the defendants took from FIFA "under false pretenses."
  • $10 million allegedly stolen by three co-conspirators, "which they funneled as bribes for their personal use."
  • Compensation for other bribes and kickbacks, and legal fees for the ongoing cases.

"They sold the power of their positions, including by taking bribes and kickbacks in return for selling the valuable marketing rights associated with football tournaments and competitions," the court documents say. "Together, the Defendants misappropriated FIFA's resources, its brand, and its commercial value to enlarge their own bank accounts."

In this document, FIFA "recognized for the first time executives had in the past 'sold' votes in World Cup hosting contests," the Associated Press reports.

The document says former FIFA Vice President Jack Warner, his son Daryan and former FIFA executive Charles Blazer "engineered a $10 million payoff in exchange for Executive Committee votes regarding where the 2010 FIFA World Cup would be hosted."

But as the AP notes, "it did not mention the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments awarded to Russia and Qatar, a decision which has triggered a criminal investigation by Swiss authorities."

With this request for restitution, FIFA is fighting a perception that it is corrupt beyond repair after a series of scandals. As The New York Times reports, it "approved a broad set of reforms last month." However "it has yet to conclude an ambitious internal inquiry into the 'endemic' corruption that American authorities suggested would not end with the firing of any single individual."

But at the same time, as the Times reports, U.S. authorities have signaled that they view FIFA as a victim of its leadership:

"Enabling FIFA's request is the United States government itself, which has characterized the organization as a victim of its leaders' crimes. A basic premise of the Justice Department's case is that soccer officials robbed FIFA and its confederations of their honest services. That prompted FIFA, in estimating the financial damage done by defendants in the United States case, to include not only bribe money routed away from soccer, but also salaries and bonuses paid to people who were supposed to be supporting the sport."

According to the Times, "Authorities are not expected to rule on FIFA's request until after the defendants have been sentenced, possibly years away."

You can read FIFA's full victim statement here:

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