The FIFA bribery scandal of 2015 has taken down several former officials and has resulted in the arrests and convictions of many. On Monday, Reynaldo Vasquez, former president of the Salvadoran Football Federation (FESFUT), pleaded guilty for his participation in the corruption case dubbed 'FIFAgate'.
Vasquez, 65, pleaded guilty in a US federal court to racketeering conspiracy, and his role in schemes to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars as kickbacks and bribes. He also agreed to forfeit multiple bank accounts and $360,000. Vasquez's sentence could see him put away for a maximum of 20 years.
"With today's guilty plea, Vasquez admits to engaging in a decades-long racketeering conspiracy to accept hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and kickbacks that corrupted the game of soccer," said Jacquelyn M. Kasulis, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, in a statement.
Extensive Bribes and Kickbacks
The ex-football chief—who led FESFUT between 2009 and 2010—was initially arrested in December 2015 after being charged. He was serving an eight-year sentence for fraud in El Salvador when he was extradited to the US on 29 January 2021. After being found guilty by an internal ethics committee, FIFA banned Vasquez for life and fined him approximately $548,000 (500,000 Swiss francs) in October 2019.
According to facts and filings presented in court during his plea proceeding, Vasquez along with his co-conspirators actively participated in corruption, nobbled a consortium of sports marketing companies and soccer organizing bodies. Through their alliance with the enterprise, Vasquez and others sought and received kickbacks and bribes in exchange for awarding profitable marketing and media contracts.
In 2012, Vasquez and other former and existing officials of the federation gained around $350,000 in bribes. This was for the sale of marketing and media rights to World Cup qualifying matches—that was set to be played much before the 2018 World Cup—involving the El Salvador national team. This payment was sent from a sports marketing company's bank account in the US. Eventually, a portion of the bribe money was received by Vasquez via wire transfer made through the US.
"Over a period of many years, Reynaldo Vasquez corrupted the business of international soccer by requesting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and kickbacks. IRS CI is committed to ending these practices and bringing corrupt officials to justice," stated Ryan L. Korner, Special Agent-in-Charge, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI).
Arrested and Convicted
However, Vasquez's involvement in corrupt practices did not end with World Cup matches. In 2014 and 2015, he and several other co-conspirators agreed to take thousands of dollars in bribes in connection with the Salvadorean national team's participation in friendly matches that were to be held in the US. He was finally arrested in 2015 after his involvement in the racket came to light.
"Mr. Vasquez didn't achieve his dream of wealth and power, and now he faces the possibility of many years in federal prison. Today's plea should demonstrate to others who attempt to corrupt international soccer - we play to win," declared Michael J. Driscoll, FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge, New York Field Office.
Vasquez's guilty plea is a result of an extended multi-institutional investigation probing corruption in international soccer. So the prosecution has led to 27 individual guilty pleas, four corporate guilty pleas, and two convictions at trial, among other settlements.