FIFA will receive $201m (£146.4m) in forfeited funds seized during a global football corruption probe, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) said on Tuesday.
The money is compensation for losses suffered by FIFA, CONCACAF – the confederation responsible for football in North and Central America – and South American governing body CONMEBOL as a result of corruption.
Since the DOJ unveiled the corruption probe in 2015, more than 50 defendants have been criminally charged. Twenty-seven people and four corporate entities have pleaded guilty, and two people were convicted at trial.
The scandal, which is the biggest the game has seen, saw collusion between officials from the governing bodies and sports marketing executives, with fraud, bribery, racketeering and money laundering offences committed.
It saw the end of Sepp Blatter’s reign as FIFA president and led to the election of Gianni Infantino.
“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 US 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,” she added.
Assistant Director-in-Charge Michael J. Driscoll of the FBI’s New York Field Office said: “Kickbacks and bribes have a way of spreading like a disease through corrupt groups; pure and simple greed keeps the graft going.
“Not one official in this investigation seemed to care about the damage being done to a sport that millions around the world revere.
“The only silver lining is the money will now help underprivileged people who need it, not the wealthy executives who just wanted it to get richer.
“Our work isn’t finished and our promise to those who love the game; we won’t give up until everyone sees justice for what they’ve done.”
The money – seized from the bank accounts of former officials who were prosecuted for corruption – will go into a newly-formed World Football Remission Fund, which will be run by the FIFA Foundation and will “help finance football-related projects with positive community impact across the globe.”
FIFA president Gianni Infantino 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.
“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.
“With the FIFA Foundation, this money is in good hands and will serve the purpose it is intended for.
“On behalf of all future beneficiaries around the world, I would like to thank the US authorities for the trust placed in FIFA, and we will make sure that these funds are used properly and bring tangible benefits for people who really need it.”
Analysis by Paul Gilmour, Sky Sports News reporter
The decision of the US Department of Justice to compensate FIFA for being the victims of corruption is the culmination of six years of investigation.
This demonstrates that the Department of Justice has trust in FIFA’s ability to ensure the proper allocation of monies to fund projects across the world.
FIFA has stressed it is a new, clean organisation, led by Gianni Infantino, and this award recognises the damage caused to FIFA and the confederations.
We still don’t know the finer detail of how the funding will be spent – we’re told this will come in due course – but the new World Football Remission Fund board will be governed by a representative from FIFA, CONCACAF and CONMEBOL.
In May 2015 the DOJ dramatically indicted several influential executives at FIFA following a raid at a Zurich hotel, and have since secured a significant number of guilty pleas into corruption.