FIFA Plays Role of Victim, Asks United States Department of Justice for Restitution Money

on March 17, 2016
FIFA restitution Gianni Infantino

New FIFA President Gianni Infantino believes the United States should compensate the organization for any funds it receives from the defendants being charged in the ongoing soccer corruption scandal. (Image: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

FIFA, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, is seeking tens of millions of dollars from the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) in an attempt to repair its damaged organization.

On Tuesday, soccer’s governing body filed a “Victim Statement and Request for Restitution” in the US Eastern District Court of New York claiming that the association itself isn’t responsible for the widespread corruption that occurred over the last two decades by its disgraced and now former leaders.

“Over many years, the Defendants grossly abused their positions of trust to enrich themselves, while causing significant direct and proximate harm to FIFA,” the court filing declares. “To date the government has ensured the forfeiture of more than $190 million in assets and identified, recovered, or frozen more than $100 million in the United States . . .

These funds should be used to compensate the victims of the Defendants’ crimes, particularly FIFA.”
More than 40 soccer defendants have been charged by the DOJ on a wide array of accusations including wire fraud, racketeering, money laundering, and bribery. The defendants consist of soccer officials, business executives, and corporations tied to FIFA.

Game Plan of Attack

It’s rather uncommon for an individual or group being charged with criminal activities to file a petition for remittance and take the role of the victim. Legal experts, however, say the strategy is smart in repairing FIFA’s worldwide image.

“It’s very important for reputational rehabilitation,” NYU School of Law Executive Director Serina Vash told the New York Times. Vash and other law analysts agree that FIFA isn’t after money as much as it’s after the good graces of the soccer public.

According to court documents, FIFA wants “at least” tens of millions of dollars for reputational harm, $28 million for money the defendants received under “under false pretenses,” and a minimum of $10 million for funds lost due to bribes and kickbacks.

Last month, Gianni Infantino was elected to a three-year term as president during the FIFA Extraordinary Congress. Infantino replaces Sepp Blatter who served in the capacity for 18 years before being charged by the Swiss Attorney General on criminal allegations.

No Pay, No Way… Right?

US Attorney General Loretta Lynch argues that FIFA was a corrupt organization for decades, and that hundreds of millions of dollars were shuffled around the planet through both international and US banks.

FIFA is in the process of overhauling its perception and attempting to regain public trust. It will likely be a long journey, but the organization has apparently already regained the support of one rather important nation: the United States.

It might seem incomprehensible that the US would actually consider giving money to FIFA, but that is precisely what the DOJ is expected to do.

“We stand ready to work with them to reform their practices,” Lynch said in October. “FIFA is the damaged party.”
Though restitution payments from governments are typically pennies on the dollar, it still seems likely that FIFA will receive a check from the US government in 2016 for failing to properly monitor its own leaders.