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Swiss banker helped launder $25 million FIFA bribes

A former managing director of Julius Baer pleaded guilty Thursday to a money laundering conspiracy in the DOJ's prosecution of corruption in soccer's international governing body.

Jorge Luis Arzuaga, 56, appeared in federal court in Brooklyn.

He admitted arranging financial transfers from 2010 to 2015 of more than $25 million in bribes and kickbacks that a FIFA official took from a sports media company based in Argentina.

Arzuaga, an Argentina citizen, worked for Zurich-based Julius Baer until 2015. The bank was named in the DOJ's 240-page superseding indictment (pdf) filed in November 2015.

He collected more than $1 million in bonus payments for handling the bribe money for the bank. At his plea hearing Thursday, Arzuaga agreed to forfeit that amount to the DOJ. A date for sentencing hasn't been set.

Acting on instructions from a sports marketing company, he opened a bank account in the name of a shell company, the DOJ said. The true beneficial owner of the account was a high-ranking soccer official.

"Arzuaga assisted in paying more than $25 million in bribes into the account," the DOJ said.

After the soccer official died, Arzuaga arranged for the money in the account to be distributed to the official’s heirs, according to the DOJ.

The DOJ Thursday didn't name the sports marketing company that paid the bribes.

But in December last year, Argentina-based Torneos y Competencias S.A. was charged in federal court in Brooklyn with wire fraud conspiracy. It agreed to pay $112.8 million in forfeiture and criminal penalties.

The DOJ's November 2015 indictment linked Torneos to huge transfers to a Julius Baer account, including one for $5 million.

Torneos admitted bribing FIFA officials to win broadcast rights for the 2018, 2022, 2026, and 2030 FIFA World Cups.

The company entered into a four-year deferred prosecution agreement with the DOJ and is cooperating with prosecutors.

The DOJ has charged more than 40 defendants in the FIFA corruption prosecution.

Twenty defendants have now pleaded guilty.


Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog.