November 21 – A prosecution witness in the increasingly revelatory FIFAGate corruption trial in New York says eight South American officials who received bribes in exchange for broadcasting and sponsorship rights were all given code names relating to different car brands, logged in secret Excel spreadsheets.
Santiago Pena, a financial manager from 2009 to 2015 at Argentine-based sports marketing firm Full Play – a company that won the rights to South American World Cup qualifiers and the Copa America and Copa Libertatores tournaments – was giving evidence in the trial of former football powerbrokers Jose Marin, Manuel Burga and Juan Angel Napout who have all pleaded not guilty.
‘Honda’ was the name given to Napout, Paraguay’s one-time CONMEBOL boss, while ‘Fiat’ was Burga, former president of Peru’s federation, claimed Pena.
The cloak-and-dagger payments included cash, wire transfers and, in the case of Napout, tickets to a Paul McCartney concert and a rental house in Uruguay worth tens of thousands of dollars, he added.
They also included a commitment of $750,000 to former president of the Venezuelan federation Rafael Esquivel, who was nicknamed “Benz”. Esquivel pleaded guilty in November 2016 to racketeering conspiracy, three counts of wire fraud conspiracy and three counts of money laundering conspiracy.
Money was also given to ‘VW’, ‘Toyota’, ‘Kia’, and ‘Peugeot’, said Pena, adding he was instructed about the amounts and details of the payments by his bosses – the owners of Full Play, Argentine nationals Hugo Jinkis and his son Mariano. They are also among the 42 people and entities charged by the United States in the scandal but have not been extradited from Argentina thus far.
Pena testified that he kept the evidence at his home for two years before turning it over the American prosecutors. ”We basically decided to make up fantasy names for each of the people involved,” he told the court.
He said the money was not recorded on Full Play’s regular accounts. ”They were secret payments.”
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