Fifa trial: ex-president of Colombia football discussed Qatar 2022 bribes

Luis Bedoya said he and two other senior South American football officials discussed potential bribes to back Qatars bid to host the 2022 World Cup

The former president of Colombias football federation told a New York City courtroom on Monday that he was approached over potential bribe payments to back Qatars bid to host the 2022 World Cup.

Luis Bedoya, who has pled guilty to corruption charges filed as part of a sprawling US government investigation into Fifa, the sports governing body, said that he and two other senior South American football officials discussed potential bribes during a conversation with an intermediary in Madrid in 2010.

Bedoya, a former member of the Fifa executive committee, was handed a lifetime ban in 2016 and is now testifying as a key government witness in the trial of three former South American football officials who have pled not guilty to multiple corruption charges.

The Colombian national told the court through a translator that he had travelled to Madrid in May 2010 to watch the final of the Champions League and was approached at a hotel by an unnamed important person from Qatari television and the Argentine businessman Mariano Jinkis, the owner of the sports marketing company Full Play.

Jinkis, Bedoya told the court, wanted to introduce the Qatari official to Bedoya and his two colleagues, Juan Angel Napout, the former head of football in Paraguay, and Luis Chiriboga, his counterpart in Ecuador, as the unnamed Qatari wanted to know if South America was willing to support them in their bid for the World Cup.

Bedoya characterized the introduction as short but added that after the Qatari official left the conversation Jinkis moved the discussion on to potential bribes. The marketing executive, who along with his father Hugo Jinkis has also been charged on multiple counts of corruption by US prosecutors but has so far avoided extradition to the US, suggested to the trio that Qatars bid for the tournament could be important for business.

He told the officials he could ask for 10 or 15m [in bribes] and could divide it up between the group of six.

Jinkiss referral to the group of six was a nod to the bloc of six influential officials at South American footballs governing body Conmebol, which at that time included Bedoya, Napout and Chiriboga.

Despite the discussion, Bedoya said, none of the officials took the matter any further. That is too complicated, you shouldnt get into it, Napout told the group, according to Bedoya. None of the group of six at the time were on Fifas executive committee and so did not have World Cup voting rights. Nonetheless the blocs growing power in Conmebol has been discussed at length by prosecutors throughout proceedings.

Bedoya said he ended up backing the United States bid for 2022 and told the court he submitted a formal letter to Conmebol expressing his national associations position before the World Cup vote. He described handing the letter to Conmebols former secretary general Eduardo Deluca, who told him: Youre always with the losers.

The trial, now entering its third week, has seen some of the most detailed allegations of corruption associated with Qatars bid for the tournament. The influential former marketing executive Alejandro Burzaco told the court earlier in the month he had witnessed former Argentine football chief and Fifa senior vice president Julio Grondona discuss receiving at least $1m in exchange for his vote for Qatar. Burzaco indicated that the two other senior South American officials with World Cup voting rights at Fifa, Ricardo Teixeira of Brazil and Nicols Leoz of Paraguay, had also been bribed for their vote.

The court has also heard that a powerful Qatari sports investment company was in secretive talks to purchase Full Play, the Jinkiss marketing company. The multimillion-dollar deal, nicknamed the New York Project, was aborted after the Argentines were indicted by US prosecutors in May 2015.

Bedoya is one of around two dozen former officials and marketing executives to have pled guilty after US prosecutors have charged over 40 people in relation to the scandal involving at least $150m in bribes paid over two decades.

He told the court he had begun receiving bribes in 2007 for the rights to an array of Colombian national team-friendly matches. He also received six-figure bribes later in his tenure in exchange for rights to popular regional tournaments including the Copa America and the Copa Libertadoras.

The former football chief also implicated the sportswear company Nike, who he claimed offered him a bribe in exchange for the Colombian national team kit sponsorship rights in 2010. But the official said that the bribe was never paid as the assocation took up a contract with Adidas instead.

Nike spokeswoman Ilana Finley said: Nike believes in ethical and fair play in both business and sport and strongly opposes any form of manipulation or bribery. We have been cooperating, and will continue to cooperate, with the authorities.

Juan Angel Napout, along with former Peruvian football chief Manuel Burga and Brazilian Jose Maria Marin, the defendants in the ongoing trial, have all pled not guilty to multiple corruption charges.

The trial is expected to last six weeks in total.

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