The fall of Rafael Esquivel (Updated)

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Dear Rafael Esquivel: So long and thanks for all the kits (But I don’t like that yellow at all).

Huge news out of Zurich today, where several high ranking members of FIFA were arrested for alleged corruption and money laundering. One of them is Rafael Esquivel, chairman of the Venezuelan Football Federation (FVF) for the last 27 years and first Vice-President of the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) since March. You read that right, twenty seven years.

Swiss authorities acted following a U.S. Department of Justice extradition request, which accuses nine FIFA officials and five others of “…racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies”. Among the detained are the former head of CONMEBOL, Nicolás Leoz and both the current and former heads of CONCACAF, (North, Central American and Carribean Football Confederation).

Though some news reports mention that these arrests could be related to the controversial awarding to Russia and Qatar of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups respectively, the case is mostly about corruption involving licensing rights.

The indictment alleges that, between 1991 and the present, the defendants and their co-conspirators corrupted the enterprise by engaging in various criminal activities, including fraud, bribery and money laundering… All told, the soccer officials are charged with conspiring to solicit and receive well over $150 million in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for their official support of the sports marketing executives who agreed to make the unlawful payments.

Most of the schemes alleged in the indictment relate to the solicitation and receipt of bribes and kickbacks by soccer officials from sports marketing executives in connection with the commercialization of the media and marketing rights associated with various soccer matches and tournaments, including FIFA World Cup qualifiers in the CONCACAF region, the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the CONCACAF Champions League, the jointly organized CONMEBOL/CONCACAF Copa América Centenario, the CONMEBOL Copa América, the CONMEBOL Copa Libertadores and the Copa do Brasil, which is organized by the Brazilian national soccer federation (CBF).”

For Esquivel, this looks like the end of the line. Regardless of the improvements the Vinotinto achieved on his watch, the current state of our fútbol is quite worrysome. Matter of fact, this comes as he was pushing huge changes in the league format and negotiating new television rights. Let’s not forget that he got quite cozy with the government after unilaterally pushing out Empresas Polar as FVF’s main sponsor and replacing it with State oil company PDVSA in 2012.

If Esquivel’s fall serves to improve our football, that’s great. All I can say is, “good riddance”.

But this is something way larger than Esquivel: the bombshell comes right on the eve of the election for FIFA President, in which incumbent Joseph Blatter runs for a fifth term. FIFA said the election will go ahead as scheduled. La tendencia, apparently, is irreversible.

UPDATE: FIFA’s Ethics Committee has suspended 11 officers involved in today’s developments, including Esquivel. Therefore, the current VP of the FVF Laureano González will take the helm until further notice and he can even complete Esquivel’s term until 2017.

The core of the scandal is around CONCACAF, as its main HQ in Miami was raided by the FBI and that the case is based in part on the cooperation of CONCACAF’s former Secretary-General Chuck Blazer, who declared himself guilty and helped the authorities in order to avoid serving time in prison.

Finally, a correction: Earlier reports indicated that former CONMEBOL President Nicolas Leoz was detained. Matter of fact, he’s hospitalized on his home country of Paraguay. He was charged by a Brooklyn court and suspended by FIFA.

1 COMMENT

  1. The thing that jumps out at me is the Money Laundering charge. It’s always the way you get these fuckers. Hiding a bribe is simple. Hiding the contortions you have to undergo to launder the bribe? Not so simple.

  2. Some of the stories one hears: corporate sponsors having to share a cut to get a contract; family members who are in charge of the box office of the Vinotinti’s games; shadyu land dealings in Margarita where they built the “city of football”;

    http://hincando-dientes.blogspot.com/2009/10/elefante-blanco-es-poco.html

    Ticket sales to government entities with huge prices, part of it going to the politicians, part of it going to him; negotiation of transmission of friendly matches where he got a cut … and so on.

    I’m sure all of it is untrue though …

  3. Of course, Maduro will now complain “what is the problem? The imperialist US has declared war on Venezuela.”

    Did Rafael Esquivel have to share the spoils with Hugo or Nicolas?

  4. I’ve been giggling like a kid all they reading this.

    From the NYT original story about the arrests:

    “We’re struck by just how long this went on for and how it touched nearly every part of what FIFA did,” said a law enforcement official. “It just seemed to permeate every element of the federation and was just their way of doing business. It seems like this corruption was institutionalized.”

    … and all I can thing is “Thats because you are a gringo and dont know shit about football, Mr FBI, but many thanks for actually doing something about it!” 😛

    I mean, come on, EVERYBODY and their dogs know FIFA is corrupt to the bone.

    • Funny that EVERYBODY seems happy about these news. One sure makes a lot of enemies after twenty-seven years at the helm of an organization.

      I wonder if the Feds will give Mr. Esquivel a Vinotinto jumpsuit.

      • Vinotinto jumpsuit? No! He will fight like the dickens to stay in that Zurich jail cell. I understand that inmates get a change of fresh linen every day, fondue parties on weekends, once a year skiing at Gstaad with lift ticket included, and two little Swiss chocolate bars on the pillow every night!

      • I am having some interesting thoughts as I see a lot of chavistas applauding the move from US (The Empire) against the FIFA corruption.

        One can think, may be I don’t know, that the chavistas are in fact legitimizing the justice system of the US in the FIFA case…

        …the same justice system that is now behind Diosdado and his drugs.

        Do I see a controversy here or is the old pragmatism in action?

    • I noticed this from the start. We have become so used to read about billionary corruption schemes in Venezuela that 150 million$ didn’t seem much to me at first glance.

  5. “Si el Mundial de Futbol del 2022 no puede ser en Qatar, que sea en Venezuela, otra potencia petrolera!” afirmaron los liders cagones y corruptos de la MUD.

  6. Corruption does not need for its practitioners to live in a petrostate to thrive , its old, widespread and rooted in mens venal nature , in mens fascination with the making of lots of easy money through chicacery and cunning , Picaros abound in all cultures except where these have been influenced by the Puritan/Calvinist Ethos , it exists in China and in Spain , In Italy and even in Japan . ( corruption there however is so discreet institutionalized and orderly that it passes for part of the ordinary transaction costs of any venture ).

    In Venezuela lake maracaibo fishermen, whenever an isolated pollution incident ocurred would rush like crazed flies to the spot to take turns dipping their nets in the oil to later make a claim to be compensated for the damage done their fishing . their union leaders would go to the press and tearfully and angrily complain how their livelihood was being threatened by such pollution (even if the spillage was contained within 24 hours) , all these shenagigangs were filmed from helicopters as was the pay off to the union leaders one bloc away from where the fisherman were compensated . If offfered to have their nets cleaned and restored to pristine condition they would insist on a hard cash compensation .

    Of course the Pols and the Public supported the fisherman in their outcries.

    In Japan vessel owners routinely passing thru certain straits would be visited by a group of well dressed men in dark suits handing out their cards ( lawyers and accountants mostly) saying to represents the fishermens association working in the waters surrounding such straits. They would politely explain that in time it was inevitable for one of the owners vessel to have an pollution causing accident damaging their representatives , when that ocurred it was advantageous to avoid the scandal of litigation so they were prepared to negotiate a discreet yearly sum in exchange for an understanding that if the incident ever ocurred it would be resolved with minimum fuss and a small additional payment .

    The principle was the same but the social packaging so different that in the Japanese case the victim didnt know he was being skimmed .

    • Yawn -that puritan/calvinist crap is so old (closet Catholic-bashing and borderline racist). You think there is no corruption in the UK or USA? I once had to attend a FCA lecture at a US corporate operating in the UK. Basically buying a cup of tea for a foreign official could get you on the wrong side of FCA. Thing is its only the F that matters, at that time ENRON was letting one certain Republican candidate use its corporate jet. THAT didn’t count I was told, as the Supereme Court, had ruled that this peculiar type of corruption was ‘protected freedom of speech’. By the way how do you think US multin-national oil companis operate in Venezuela and other similar places?

      • Maybe I’m wrong on this, but I don’t read Bill as saying “there is 0% corruption in countries influenced by the Puritan/Calvinist ethos.” It seems to me his main point is the depressing normality of it nearly anywhere human beings are found. If that is what he’s getting at, I find it difficult to disagree.

        Anyway, it would be a question of degrees, wouldn’t it?

        A Colombian friend of mine once complained to me about the normality of corruption in his country and told me how much he envied us gringos, whose country seemed to run like clockwork (in his view).

        I responded, “Hey, we have PLENTY of corruption in the U.S. I live in Illinois. 3 of our last 5 governors are in prison!”

        “Prison?” he said. “Really? So, you send those *&^%$#@ to prison? And you’re comparing your corruption to ours?”

        Chicago’s Mayor Daley (the elder) famously turned municipal corruption into an art form, but he knew he had to at least keep the snow off the streets and make sure the garbage got picked up if he wanted to keep it going. In Venezuela…holy crap. That’s the MLB of corruption; Daley at his worst never made it past AA ball.

        • Corruption is found just about anywhere there are people. What is surprising to many Americans and Europeans is that it is so easily observed abroad. Let’s face it, when gringos do corruption they don’t shake down motorists or ask for pocket change at government offices. They pull a Bernie Madoff and cause a global financial crisis. Levels of corruption in the U.S. are shockingly high too but the average citizen doesn’t really see them as readily as they would in Latin America.

  7. Some juicy info was given way to the FBI by two FIFA’s “Leasmy Salazar”. A guy named José Hawilla, and another one called Chuck Blazer…

    “Last year it emerged that Blazer, who was forced to resign after being accused of financial irregularities, had been helping the FBI with its long-running inquiry. The DoJ statement said Blazer had already pleaded guilty to charges, as had José Hawilla, the owner and founder of the Traffic Group.”

    If I were Cabello, I wouldn’t travel much around these days, hahaha!

  8. The fall of Whiskyvel

    Just at the dawn of his 28th year as head of FVF.

    This is a work of Gomez, from hell, he didn’t want someone to hold power more than 27 straight years in this country

  9. The case of this man, Esquivel, is one more proof that power corrupts and that long permanence in power corrupts absolutely. 27 years is equal to Gomez’s stay in power and about the length of time the now deceased Chavez meant to keep his bag ass on Venezuela’s face. I hope these thugs do commensurate prison time.

    • Absolutely right.

      And thanks to our corrupt, Chavista-light MUD, Cabello/Masburro might still be in power after both Castros finally die, in a couple decades.

      • While people everywhere will still be enjoying their Mundiales de Futbol, except in Cubazuela, where that great tradition, live Brasil/Italia games in las tascas de la Candelaria… will also die.

    • Being these are all federal charges in the USA, with stiff sentencing for the alleged crimes, be assured these guys will be ratting on everyone involved for a reduced sentence. Even so, these thugs will be forced to give up their stolen wealth and spend some serious time in prison.

  10. During the last World Cup where there were obvious referee errors, bad calls and outright favouratism to one team or another I told my wiofe that some of the games were surely fixed.

    Just the refusal to institute instant replay on disputed calls shows me that they don’t want anyone to interfere with the teams they pick to win.

    Now comes this story which I think is just the tip of the iceberg.
    Wait until these fat cats start spilling their guts and admit to fixing games.
    That’s where the big money is.

    • Big Money? 150 little millions?

      Here’s the big money: 1.5 Trillion, and counting.

      “The magnitude of the financial disaster of Venezuela during the last 15 years can be summarized by the formula: C+ I = $1.5 trillion, where C is Corruption and I bureaucratic ineptitude. This immense amount of money has essentially been wasted, illegally transferred to ideologically similar foreign leaders from Cuba to Belarus or simply stolen by the members of the regime and their cronies.”

      http://lasarmasdecoronel.blogspot.com/

      Arriba Messi !!

  11. Those jobs tend to be longer term in other countries, too. The German Football Association (DFB) had only 11 chairmen since 1900. Hermann Neuberger for example was chairman for 18 years. The current chairman started in the DFB as a chief press officer in 1988.

    And corruption of a FIFA official is sadly the antonym of a man bites dog news.

  12. Now here’s the real News:

    Henrique Capriles R. ✔@hcapriles
    Sobre las actividades del sábado x la libertad de ntros compañeros presos políticos YO,sin dividir,voy a participar! #UniónYCambio

    Por fin se pone las pilas Caprilito !!

    • “Caprilito” le ganó unas elecciones a Diosdado y sacó más de siete millones de votos.

      Yo más bien diría “Leopoldito, el ex alcaldito de Chacao” si no fuese porque su situación es dramática.

      • Caprilito sirve para Gobernador. Un chamo del pueblo honesto y trabajador. Hace falta.

        Leopoldo Lopez es graduado de Harvard. Entre otras vainas.. es otro nivel.

        • A lo mejor para ti ir a Harvard es gran vaina. A mi no me impresiona, sobre todo cuando LL no es una lumbrera de originalidad política.

          Lo que sí me parece imponente es conseguir que los chavistas voten por la oposición. Y eso lo hace Capriles.

          • “Lo que sí me parece imponente es conseguir que los chavistas voten por la oposición. Y eso lo hace Capriles.”

            Eso lo hubiera hecho casi cualquier candidato con la misma oferta populista de Capriles, hasta MCM tuvo que meterle edulcorante populista a su campaña cuando estaba de precandidata (Nunca olvidaré esa cursilería del “capitalismo popular”).

            El hecho es que maburro es tan inmamable que hasta algunos chavistas y ninís salieron a votar en su contra, yo realmente no me convenzo mucho de que los 800 mil fueran sólo chavistas, pudieron haberse abstenido una gran parte, tal vez más de 500 mil, y algunos ninís decidieron probar suerte y votar.

            ““Caprilito” le ganó unas elecciones a Diosdado y sacó más de siete millones de votos.”

            Tengo entendido que capodado ganó el curul sólo porque lo pusieron en el fraude ese que es lo del voto lista, donde le cuelan las basuras más impresentables a la gente sin que tengan derecho de decidir si los quioeren o no, el otro caso que sé es el de pedro “robacantinas” carroña, que por ese no vota ni su propia familia o la imbécil loca de la iris varela.

            Como dije antes, usar lo de los “7 millones de votos” como algo para invalidar cualquier argumento en contra de algo que diga capriles es por decir lo más suave, una excusa infantiloide que está al mismo nivel de los pseudo argumentos comodines del chavismo (por ejemplo, “si dicen algo contra alguno de nosotros entonces es algo político y por lo tanto no vale”), capriles realmente habrá sacado lo que sacó en las primarias por el lado de su base dura, y luego como se había acordado y era lógico la gente votó por él en contra del chavismo.

        • Palante… cuando se te lee -en castellano- se nota tu afinidad con Chavez y Maduro. El muerto lo llamó “coChino”. Maduro lo llamaba “burguesito”, “Caprichito” y recientemente “vampiro lácteo”. Tu lo llamas “Caprilito”. Vete pa’ tu misión vivienda, infiltrado, que se te ven las costuras.

          • Lo que más risa me da del maburro es que en su homofobia ridícula el llamar “vampiro lácteo” a Capriles no sólo da a entender que él mismo es marico, si no que también para él, cualquier mención de “leche” implica obligatoriamente que se refiere al semen.

            De verdad, maburro hace quedar bien mal a los “sexodiversos” del país…

            Casi lo olvido, el pobre idiota hasta una cadena hizo para sacar a una gente disque “representantes de la comunidad sexodiversa de Venezuela” para simplemente decir que Capriles es marico.

  13. This is the first step to get Blatter, The US indicted these guys because some of the acts and deals were done in the US. Hopefully these guys will sing and the Swiss authorities will take Blatter.
    Maybe USA 2022 is still a possibility…

    • Really? Already thinking about the political and economic advantages? Isn’t that what got FIFA to the point where they are now in the first place?

      • No, what got FIFA to this point is the unique opportunity and ability to demand massive amounts of bribes and get them.

    • Nothing better out there on FIFA than John Oliver’s brilliant takedown on Last Week Tonight.

      Gotta love his comment r.e. video of Blatter faceplanting at some ceremony:

      “That is probably the only time you can genuinely say ‘I’m glad that old man fell off that stage.'”

      Classic…

  14. Gee, guess Masburro won’t be able to threaten Switzerland as with Aruba in the Carvajal case. Drug dealing military and government people are better protected by the regime anyway. What is more surprising to me is that these common criminals are so stupid and arrogant they continue to conduct illicit business through the USA permitting their extradition and prosecution.

    • Yes, interesting that only 1 has agreed to the extradition. Maybe he does not like the Swiss cuisine???? The others will nonetheless be enjoying American hospitality in 40-60 days.

        • Maybe it is the Venezuelan. Look what’s happening with Diosdado et al from some former Venezuelan residents. Might be a good strategy if he wants to make a good deal with the Feds by supplying information before the others make it to the USA.

  15. Another Venezuelan world class industry and export!: corruption know how.

    I wonder if The Venezuelan and and LATAM officials mentioned in the story influenced the organization at the highest levels of if FIFA was a best practise organization in tramparencia!?

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