Traffic’s former US boss Davidson poised to change his plea to guilty

By Andrew Warshaw

October 19 – Yet another of those arrested in the US-led corruption probe into football corruption has agreed to plead guilty. Agency reports citing court papers say Aaron Davidson, who headed Traffic Sports USA, the Miami-based business of Brazilian sports marketing group Traffic, is due to enter his plea on Thursday.

Davidson was first detained in Miami in May 2015 as part of the infamous police raid on the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich and is one of 42 individuals and entities charged as part of the US-led investigation that brought FIFA to its knees.

Prosecutors have alleged the defendants engaged in schemes involving more than $200 million in bribes and kickbacks over some 20 years in return for marketing and broadcasting rights.

Davidson’s case has been somewhat underreported given the status of some of the others charged. But many feel his evidence, whenever it is heard, could prove highly embarrassing for FIFA given the extent of his dealings with the organisation’s top brass over more than a decade.

Davidson reported to Brazilian Jose Hawilla, the Traffic CEO, who was one of the first football executives turned by the FBI in their investigations having admitted he had personally arranged more than $100 million in bribes.

Hawilla was wired up and caught Davidson on tape in March 2014 discussing how Traffic was making all of its cash. “Is it illegal? It is illegal,” Davidson says on the tape, apparently referring to the bribes. “Within the big picture of things, a company that has worked in this industry for 30 years, is it bad? It is bad.”

Davidson ran the US office of Traffic when his deputy, Enrique Sanz was hired by CONCACAF as its new general secretary. Sanz is co-operating with the US prosecutors and is identified as one of the co-conspirators in the US indictment.

One of the first contracts Traffic won was for CONCACAF rights which allegedly involved a $3 million payment for then CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb that was made to a swimming pool contractor in Georgia.

Traffic also picked up World Cup qualifying match rights to Costa Rica in another deal that allegedly involved then Costa Riccan president Eduardo Li. Li, like Webb, was arrested in may 2014 in the swoop on the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich by Swiss police operating alongside the FBI. Li has just changed his plea to guilty.

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