Brazilian Businessman Details FIFA Bribes During U.S. Trial
A Brazilian businessman testified on Monday that he "participated in a bribery scheme to buy the influence" of FIFA officials to win commercial rights to major tournaments, "a decision he later regretted," according to Tom Hays of the AP. At the U.S. conspiracy trial of three former South American football officials, José Hawilla said, "I made a mistake. I committed an error, and I regret it very much." Hawilla, founder of marketing firm Traffic Group, became the latest cooperator to take the witness stand "after pleading guilty in the sprawling investigation of FIFA." Testifying in Portuguese through an interpreter, the 74-year-old witness described how his marketing business and two other firms "joined forces" to pay a $10M bribe to Jeffery Webb, then a FIFA VP and president of CONCACAF, to help secure the rights for the Copa América in '16. The N.Y. jury also heard for the first time recordings made by Hawilla after he was arrested in '13 and agreed to cooperate with the FBI by wearing a wire. One tape captured a meeting with Hugo and Mariano Jinkis, the father and son who ran Argentina-based firm Full Play, "where they discussed bribing presidents" of various national football federations. According to a transcript of the tape, Mariano Jinkis said, "I want to coexist with and make all the presidents rich" (AP, 12/4). BLOOMBERG's Patricia Hurtado reported a day before officials for FIFA announced the U.S. would play host to a special '16 centennial edition of the Copa América, Hawilla got Hugo Jinkis on tape. During an April '14 recording, Jinkis said, "I need to pay payoffs every day, it is more and more difficult every day." Hawilla testified that he and his partners "facilitated bribes" for the execs of South American football, including the three men on trial: José Maria Marin, Juan Ángel Napout and Manuel Burga. During the '14 meeting, the men "celebrated" having made $100M by selling off broadcasting rights. But after Hawilla told them he was "thinking of selling Traffic, both father and son worried who would be their new partner." Mariano Jinkis said, "My fear is that I will get stuck with a partner who can't make payoffs, and then I will have my hands tied because I will need to pay it myself. We need to be realistic about that. There will always be payoffs. There will be payoffs forever" (BLOOMBERG, 12/5).