After years of investigations and charges, the US Department of Justice on Monday said for the first time that representatives working for Russia and Qatar had bribed top officials to secure hosting rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup respectively.

Prosecutors made the accusations in charging three media executives – former Fox executives Hernan Lopez and Carlos Martinez – and Gerard Romy, the former co-chief executive of Spanish media company Imagina Media.

Full Play Group, a Uruguayan sports marketing company, was also charged.

The crimes include wire fraud and money laundering in connection with bribes to secure TV and marketing rights for international football tournaments.

The accusations were the latest in a protracted corruption case that has already produced convictions of numerous football officials and executives, as well as depositions from former leaders of Fifa.

Never before, though, have prosecutors so clearly described the scheme that helped deliver the votes that gave Russia and Qatar hosting rights for the sport’s biggest event.

Prosecutors explicitly revealed details about money paid to five members of governing body Fifa’s top board ahead of the 2010 vote to choose Russia and Qatar as hosts.

Russia defeated England and joint bids from the Netherlands-Belgium and Spain-Portugal to host the 2018 tournament, while Qatar defeated the United States in a run-off by a group of voters that had already been trimmed because two members had been secretly filmed agreeing to sell their votes.

Three South American officials, according to the indictment, received payments to vote for Qatar.

One of them, former Argentinian Football Association president Julio Grondona, died in 2014. Former South American football chief Nicolas Leoz died in Paraguay last year while under house arrest and fighting extradition to the United States.

The third man, Ricardo Teixeira, the former president of the Brazilian Football Confederation, is still in Brazil, which does not have an extradition treaty with the US.

Prosecutors also stated that former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago, who has been fighting extradition to the US since 2015, received US$5 million (S$7.1 million) through a string of shell companies to vote for Russia.

Some of the money came “from companies based in the United States that performed work on behalf of the 2018 World Cup bid”.

More than half the people involved in the votes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, including former FIFA president Sepp Blatter, have been accused of wrongdoing, though not necessarily criminally charged.


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