Witness explains how bribes were paid to soccer officials

By: CLAUDIA TORRENS, Associated Press

Updated:
NEW YORK (AP) - An Argentinian accountant described on Wednesday how he handled the payment of millions of dollars in bribes to former South American soccer officials, including former FIFA vice president Julio Grondona, by using wire transfers, offshore accounts and money couriers.

Eladio Rodriguez, who kept track of finances and bribe payments at the Argentinian sports marketing company Torneos and Competencias, testified for hours in New York in the federal corruption trial of the former soccer heads of Paraguay, Peru and Brazil. The company, along with two others, made the payments to obtain the rights to broadcast tournaments and matches.

Rodriguez said it was necessary to pay bribes "to maintain a good relationship with CONMEBOL (South America's soccer governing body) and to obtain the signing of contracts." He said he kept track of the payments by occasionally emailing himself copies of ledgers.

The cash payments to Gondrona were made after Torneos deposited money into overseas accounts of exchange remittance businesses. Money couriers would then take the money to Torneos in Buenos Aires and Grondona's chauffeur normally would pick it up, Rodriguez said.

Grondona was paid at least $3 million in 2013, according to Rodriguez. Payments to him were masked under the name "Pope".

Juan Angel Napout, the ex-president of Paraguay's soccer federation, Jose Maria Marin, the former president of Brazil's soccer federation, and Manuel Burga, the ex-head of Peru's soccer federation, are on trial for racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies.

Payments to former presidents of the soccer federations of Paraguay, Peru, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia were made through Argentinian-based Full Play Group.

Bribes to Marin and Marco Polo del Nero, the current president of the Brazilian Football Confederation, were made under the code name "brasileiro," according to Rodriguez, who explained that in 2013 Torneos paid $1.5 million to each for the rights of the Copa America.

When U.S. officials began arresting soccer officials in 2015, Rodriguez said he ordered the destruction of the servers he maintained in Uruguay with bribe information. He also testified that he saw Torneos employees shredding documents at the Buenos Aires office.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Pamela Chen dismissed one of the jurors for allegedly sleeping during the trial.

Rodriguez has a deal with U.S. prosecutors and has forfeited more than $600,000, he said.

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