HomeNewsBriefLatin America at Heart of FIFA ‘Cartel’
BRIEF

Latin America at Heart of FIFA 'Cartel'

SOCCER CRIME / 28 MAY 2015 BY KYRA GURNEY EN

Twelve of the 14 defendants indicted in the bribery scandal involving international soccer organization FIFA are from Latin America and the Caribbean, just another face of the corruption that permeates the region's football industry.

On May 27, the US Department of Justice unsealed an indictment charging nine FIFA officials and five executives with racketeering, conspiracy, and corruption offenses.

The officials stand accused of soliciting over $150 million dollars in bribes and kickbacks from sports media and marketing executives between 1991 and 2015, according to the US Department of Justice press release. In exchange, the executives were granted media and marketing rights for major soccer games and tournaments. The bribes also allegedly involved the selection of the 2010 World Cup host country and FIFA's 2011 presidential elections.

"The defendants fostered a culture of corruption and greed that created an uneven playing field for the biggest sport in the world," US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director James Comey stated in the press release. "Undisclosed and illegal payments, kickbacks, and bribes became a way of doing business at FIFA."

The defendants include two current FIFA vice presidents, from the Cayman Islands and Uruguay, the presidents of the Costa Rican and Venezuelan soccer federations, the former presidents of the Nicaraguan and Brazilian soccer federations, the former presidents of the two regional soccer confederations in the Americas, and three Argentine sports marketing executives.

InSight Crime Analysis

Although the FIFA scandal centers on bribery in exchange for lucrative contracts, a different kind of corruption -- involving organized crime -- has also long plagued Latin American soccer.    

Indeed, the overlap between crime and soccer in Latin America ranges from fan clubs involved in drugs and arms trafficking to soccer teams owned by criminal groups who use them to launder money and win the support of local communities.

Argentina's fan clubs, known as "barras bravas," are perhaps the most famous for inciting violence and engaging in criminal activity, but this phenomenon has also been seen elsewhere in the region in places like Uruguay and Brazil

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Soccer and Crime

Meanwhile, several famous narcos have sponsored soccer teams, including notorious Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, who financed the professional soccer team Atletico Nacional in the city of Medellin. Escobar's rivals, the Cali Cartel, owned the soccer team America.

More recently, in 2010, Argentine authorities nabbed Luis Agustin Caicedo Velandia, alias "Don Lucho," a major Colombian drug dealer who had been hiding out in Buenos Aires, when an investigation into the finances of a soccer club led them to him. Don Lucho and his associates laundered up to an estimated $1.5 billion through soccer clubs. 

Also in Argentina, investigators have recently uncovered a massive transnational drug trafficking and money laundering network operating under the façade of several companies and soccer clubs. In addition, soccer greats including Argentine superstar Lionel Messi and Brazilian legend Pele have had their names dragged through the mud when family members have been linked to money laundering schemes. 

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

ARGENTINA / 5 JUN 2014

They have been labelled the most violent and dangerous fans in Latin America, if not the world. In Argentina, an…

ARMS TRAFFICKING / 24 NOV 2014

Police in Uruguay have evidence that more than 400 people -- among them members of soccer fan clubs, soccer team…

EL SALVADOR / 20 MAR 2015

Judicial proceedings have begun in the case of eleven former soccer players from El Salvador's national team who stand accused…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Combating Environmental Crime in Colombia

15 JUN 2021

InSight Crime presented findings from an investigation into the main criminal activities fueling environmental destruction in Colombia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Collaborating on Citizen Security Initiatives

8 JUN 2021

Co-director Steven Dudley worked with Chemonics, a DC-based development firm, to analyze the organization’s citizen security programs in Mexico.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Deepens Its Connections with Universities

31 MAY 2021

A partnership with the University for Peace will complement InSight Crime’s research methodology and expertise on Costa Rica.

THE ORGANIZATION

With Support from USAID, InSight Crime Will Investigate Organized Crime in Haiti

31 MAY 2021

The project will seek to map out Haiti's principal criminal economies, profile the specific groups and actors, and detail their links to elements of the state.

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.