FIFA Trial Witness Says Officials Used Car Names to Disguise Secret Payments

Details have emerged about how FIFA executives labeled secret payments, including some that appear related to the 2022 Qatar World Cup.
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NEW YORK (AP) – Payments to the head of Peruvian soccer were masked under the name ''Fiat.'' Money for Paraguay's boss was listed as ''Honda.''

Excel spreadsheets detailed the cloak-and-dagger recording system of money given to ''Benz,'' ''VW,'' ''Toyota,'' ''Kia,'' and ''Peugeot,'' among others, including a pair of payments labeled ''Q2022'' that appeared to be related to the FIFA executive committee's 2010 vote giving Qatar rights to host the 2022 World Cup.

''We basically decided to make up fantasy names for each of the people involved,'' sports marketing executive Santiago Pena testified Monday as the trial of three high-ranking soccer executives entered its second week at federal court in Brooklyn.

Pena worked for Full Play Group, a company based in Argentina that won marketing rights to South American World Cup qualifiers and the Copa America and Copa Libertatores tournaments.

Hugo and Mariano Jinkis, a father and son who are Full Play's controlling principals, were indicted along with many top soccer executives in 2015 by U.S. prosecutors. The father and son have not been extradited thus far.

Pena testified that he took the ledger from Full Play's office on a thumb drive along with a stack of documents shortly after the first indictments were unsealed in May 2015 and kept the evidence at his home for two years before turning it over the American prosecutors.

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Juan Angel Napout, the ex-president of Paraguay's soccer federation; Jose Maria Marin, the former president of Brazil's soccer federation; and Manuel Burga, the ex-head of Peru's soccer federation; are on trial for racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy.

Rafael Esquivel, the former president of Venezuelan soccer, was nicknamed ''Benz'' and his ledger listed a $750,000 payment owed for ''Q2022.'' He pleaded guilty in November 2016 to racketeering conspiracy, three counts of wire fraud conspiracy and three counts of money laundering conspiracy.

Luis Chiriboga, the former president of Ecuadorean soccer, was nicknamed ''Toyota'' and his ledger listed a $500,000 payment owed for ''Q2022.'' He was convicted in his own country in November 2016 of money laundering.

Neither Esquivel nor Chiriboga was on the FIFA executive committee that made Qatar the 2022 World Cup host. M. Kristen Mace, the assistant U.S. attorney questioning Pena, did not ask whether the payments were to be redirected to others.

Other nicknames included ''VW'' for Carlos Chavez of Bolivia, ''Honda'' for Napout, ''Fiat'' for Burga, ''Flemic,'' for Luis Bedoya of Colombia, ''Kia'' for Sergio Jadue of Chile and ''Peugeot'' for Jose Meiszner, the former general secretary of the South American governing body CONMEBOL.

Pena said that as part of the contracts for the Copa America covering 2015, 2019 and 2023, plus the 2016 Centennial Copa America, payments were made to soccer federation presidents and the CONMEBOL general secretary, listing amount for various events plus for signing contracts. He said the money was not recorded on Full Play's regular accounts.

''They were secret payments,'' he said.

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Among the payments were some for the Copa Libertadores, even though Full Play did not hold rights. Pena said his bosses described them as loyalty payments.

Pena also testified about corporate sponsorship deals for the 2015 Copa: $9 million each for MasterCard and Banco Santander; $8 million for Kia Motors; $3.2 million for Coca-Cola and DHL; $3 million for Kellogg; and $1.5 million for LATAM Airlines.

He said that payments were made from Full Play directly to Venezuela's players and coaches at the request of the nation's federation to get around currency restrictions in that nation.

Pena also detailed $2 million in payments Full Play made to Soccer United Marketing, a marketing company of the U.S. Soccer Federation and Major League Soccer, for a pair of exhibition games involving Mexico in March 2015, against Ecuador and Paraguay. He said Full Play sold U.S. rights to World Cup qualifiers to BeIN Sports through a London-based company.

Before testimony, U.S. District Judge Pamela K. Chen said she denied the government's request to remand Burga into custody but tightened restrictions on his cellphone use. Prosecutors said he made a slashing motion with a finger across his throat in a threatening gesture during the testimony of Alejandro Burzaco, another marketing executive. Burga's lawyer said he was scratching because of a skin condition.