Former Fifa executive says he was offered large bribe for 2018 World Cup vote

Oliver Laughland in New York
The Guardian
  • Rafael Salguero’s claims revealed in unsealed documents

  • Says unnamed bid offered him ‘hundreds of thousands of dollars’

<span class="element-image__caption">Rafael Salguero said he did not receive any money in return for his vote for the 2018 World Cup. </span> <span class="element-image__credit">Photograph: Stefan Matzke - sampics/Corbis via Getty Images</span>
Rafael Salguero said he did not receive any money in return for his vote for the 2018 World Cup. Photograph: Stefan Matzke - sampics/Corbis via Getty Images

A former Fifa executive said he was offered hundreds of thousands of dollars in return for his vote for the 2018 World Cup, newly released US court documents show.

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<span class="element-image__caption">Rafael Salguero.</span>
Rafael Salguero.

Rafael Salguero, a Guatemalan football administrator who served on Fifa’s executive committee, pled guilty to multiple corruption charges in 2016 as part of the US government’s sprawling investigation into world football’s governing body. But a transcript of his plea hearing in a Brooklyn federal court was only released on Tuesday with the former official expected to be sentenced this week.

The redacted transcript reveals that Salguero told the court he was approached by an individual in 2010 who offered him “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in exchange for his vote. Salguero said he was approached on a flight from Mexico to Guatemala by an individual whose name is also redacted in the transcript. Salguero said he met with the unnamed person multiple times after their first encounter to discuss the bribe.

The transcript redacts the name of the bid Salguero was told to vote for and the name of another individual, based in Italy, who had offered to provide the cash.

The 2018 World Cup was eventually hosted by Russia following a 2010 vote at Fifa’s headquarters in Zurich. The results were mired with controversy following allegations of corruption in both Russia’s 2018 bid and Qatar’s successful bid for the 2022 tournament. Russia, England and joint bids from the Netherlands and Belgium, and Portugal and Spain were considered for the 2018 World Cup.

According to the newly released transcript, Salguero told the court in 2016 that although he voted for the bid he was told to, he never received the money and did not make a trip to Italy as was suggested by the unnamed individual offering the bribe.

“About three or four weeks after the vote I tried calling [redacted] at the cell phone number he had given me, but he never picked up or returned the call. I tried to contact [redacted] because I wanted to tell him that I had voted for [redacted] and I wanted to meet [redacted] in Italy to collect this money that [redacted] said [redacted] had for me,” Salguero said, adding that his calls were not returned.

Over 40 individuals and entities were indicted as part of the the US Justice Department’s investigation into Fifa with over two dozen pleading guilty. In the first case, which was brought to trial last year, the former heads of the Paraguayan and Brazilian football federations were found guilty on multiple corruption charges.

The trial also revealed evidence of bribes to Fifa officials associated with Qatar’s 2022 World Cup bid.




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