BRASILIA: The former president of the FC Barcelona football club in Spain, Sandro Rosell, is being accused by Spanish authorities of having accepted bribes of €30 million ($34.2 million) allegedly paid by Qatar for him to pass on to African members of the International Football Federation (FIFA). In turn, several African football associations voted for Qatar to host the 2020 World Cup.
The Spanish government’s Economic and Fiscal Crime Unit (EFCU) and the National Police Corps concluded their investigation into these illegal acts the day after Rosell was arrested last May, according to the El Nacional newspaper of Catalonia. Rosell and his wife, Marta Pineda, were arrested on May 23 by the EFCU in an operation against money laundering. Three more suspects were arrested on the same day. Police believe that Rosell and his associates laundered €15 million by using fictitious companies in various tax havens. This income was from the sale of the image rights of the national Brazilian soccer team.
The authorities froze €10 million in bank deposits and barred the sale of more than 50 pieces of real estate totaling more than €25 million in value, according to El Nacional.
More worryingly, Rosell is believed to have used his firm Rosell Bonus Sports Marketing to collect €30 million between 2007 and 2014, which was then funneled to various African countries whose presidents of their respective football federations then voted for Qatar to host the 2020 World Cup.
The police report, according to the Cronica Global news site, linked Sandro Rosell “with the alleged plot of fraudulent votes for the aforementioned election of Qatar as the site of the World Cup 2020, which is being investigated by the Swiss judicial authorities.”
FIFA’s world headquarters are in Zurich, Switzerland.
The report, which was seen by Cronica Global, says that the alleged “participation of Rosell in this bribery scheme is strengthened by other details throughout the document such as an invoice issued by Rosell to the Qatar 2020 World Cup Bid Committee on Dec. 29, 2009, in the amount of €499,891, for consultancy services.”
US authorities have also been investigating Rosell, according to Cronica Global, asking Spanish authorities to provide them with details of money transfers between Rosell’s bank accounts in Spain and those he has in the US. These transfers would be related to the collection of illegal commissions and laundering of bribes paid to executives of FIFA for the sale of football rights.
The US interest in all this stems from the fact that several American cities lost out to Qatar for the right to host the 2020 World Cup.
Close associates of Rosell admitted to Cronica Global that he had worked on various projects in the past for Qatar, but insisted that the fees Rosell collected were legal and declared to the Spanish Treasury.