FIFA World Cup 'bribery' probe focuses on Monaco bank account

By Geoffrey Livolsi et Yann Philippin

US and Brazilian investigators have discovered a payment from Qatar of 22 million dollars made to a former executive committee member of world football governing body FIFA shortly after he and his colleagues controversially awarded the Gulf state the 2022 World Cup, well-informed sources have told Mediapart. The payment was made to Ricardo Teixeira, former head of the Brazilian Football Confederation and paid into his account with the Pasche Monaco bank in Monte Carlo, which was then a subsidiary of French bank Crédit Mutuel-CIC. Geoffrey Livolsi and Yann Philippin report.

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The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Brazilian justice authorities are investigating a transfer from Qatar of 22 million dollars paid into an Monaco bank account belonging to Ricardo Teixeira, the former head of the Brazilian Football Confederation, and which was completed shortly after Qatar was attributed the 2022 football World Cup in a vote by the executive committee of the international football governing body FIFA in December 2010, according to information provided to Mediapart.

Teixeira, 70, who amid mounting corruption allegations was forced in 2012 to step down after 23 years in charge of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF), is suspected of taking part in an alleged plot to buy votes for the Qatar bid among the 22-member FIFA executive committee of which he was part.

Ricardo Teixeira, former head of the Brazilian Football Confederation and ex-member of FIFA's executive committee. © Reuters Ricardo Teixeira, former head of the Brazilian Football Confederation and ex-member of FIFA's executive committee. © Reuters

Earlier this month a New York trial of numerous FIFA officials charged with corruption offences heard prosecution witness Alejandro Burzaco, a former Argentine banker who became involved in negotiating broadcasting deals in sport, told the court in Brooklyn that Teixeira was one of three prominent South American football federation heads and members of the FIFA executive committee to have received 1 million dollars in bribes for agreeing to support the Qatar bid.

In a lengthy investigation into the Pasche Monaco bank, Mediapart has previously revealed that the Brazilian had held an account since 2011with the Monaco branch of the Pasche bank, which is headquartered in Switzerland and was owned until 2013 by French banking giant Crédit Mutuel-CIC. Pasche bank's Monaco subsidiary is the subject of another ongoing criminal investigation in Monaco into suspected money laundering.

In 2015, Teixeira was accused by the US Department of Justice of being among a number of FIFA officials "involved in criminal schemes” involving hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks.

“Teixeira regularly came to Monaco”, said Celine Martinelli, a former Pasche employee turned whistleblower who managed Teixeira’s account. “He came to the bank accompanied by a manager from the São Paulo branch.” Texeira's hotel rooms at Le Métropole palace were entirely paid by the Pasche bank. Ricardo Teixeira sometimes came to Monaco with former FIFA president Jão Havelange.

In a secret sound recording made in March 2013, also revealed by Mediapart, the senior director of the Pasche Monaco bank, Jürg Schmid, explained that he had accepted Teixeira as a client despite the fact that the latter was refused business with other banks in Monaco. “Of course, he’s known, he’s known worldwide,” Schmid said in the recording. “So, we have a reputation risk. We know that he received money for doing favours, but it is not political [...] We decided together, we take him, because he’s brought us 30 million euros. That’s not nothing.”

The recording was made by the bank’s Africa region deputy director Jean-Louis Rouillan, who had become alarmed at practices within the bank.

Following the revelations, Brazilian investigators, and subsequently the American investigators, in cooperation with the Swiss and Monegasque authorities, obtained the records of Teixeira’s account at the bank. Mediapart has been told they discovered a payment of 22 million dollars reportedly made into it in January 2011 from the Qatari holding company Ghanim bin Saad Al Saad & Sons Group (GSSG), based in the Qatari capital Doha. The group, which is notably active in the construction business, has previously been cited in the corruption allegations surrounding the awarding to Qatar of the 2022 World Cup.  

GSSG chairman Ghanim bin Saad al-Saad, a former managing director of Qatari Diar. © D.R. GSSG chairman Ghanim bin Saad al-Saad, a former managing director of Qatari Diar. © D.R.

On November 17th 2010, two weeks before FIFA awarded the games to Qatar, a friendly match between Brazil and Argentina was played in Doha which had been funded by GSSG. It is suspected that the financing of the match was in part used to ensure that Teixeira, then head of the CBF, and his Argentine counterpart Julio Grondona, supported the Qatari bid. According to a report by British daily The Guardian, GSSG paid 8.6 million euros for the match, of which 5.5 million euros was paid into the bank accounts of companies with links to intermediaries of the Argentine and Brazilian football federations. Grondona, who died in 2014, is accused of receiving more than 1 million dollars to back the Qatari bid.

It is speculated that the 22 million dollars reportedly paid into Teixeir’a account with the Pasche Monaco bank may have served not only to buy his support for the Qatari bid but also that of other officials: in early 2013, several money transfers were made from the account, all on the same day, to individuals designated as “Warner Bros”, “Mohammed” and “Leoz”.

The names used bear striking similarities with those of Jack Warner, who was then president of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football, CONCACAF, with Mohamed bin Hammam, a Qatari who was then president of the Asian Football Confederation, and with Nicolas Leoz Almiron, president of the South American football confederation, CONMEBOL. All were forced to resign their positions after the emergence of evidence of widespread corruption among FIFA officials over two decades.

Contacted by Mediapart, the Crédit Mutuel-CIC, owner of the Pasche Monaco bank at the time of the events, said that it had not been informed when Ricardo Teixeira opened his account, but insisted that its then subsidiary had made all the necessary due diligence that the transactions made on it conformed with banking regulations. Also contacted by Mediapart, the Pasche bank declined to offer any comment.

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Meanwhile, the Brazilian prosecutors and the Parquet national financier (PNF), the financial crime branch of the French prosecution services, are studying a possible link between the movements on Teixeira’s Monaco account and a separate ongoing criminal investigation run by PNF into suspected secret commissions paid during the purchase in April 2010 of 5% of the capital of French utilities giant Veolia by Qatari Diar, a subsidiary of the state-owned Qatari Investment Authority. A total of 182 million euros were paid by Qatari Diar on the sidelines of the deal into shell companies in Cyprus, Malaysia and Singapore.  

At the time, the head of Qatari Diar was Ghanim bin Saad al-Saad, the chairman of GSSG. Of the 182 million euros paid on the sidelines of the Veolia deal, 45 million euros were transferred to a Singapore-based company called Suria, which was controlled by an employee of Ghanim bin Saad al-Saad. The PNF investigation is now seeking to establish whether the secret commissions from the Qatar-Veolia operation may be connected to the 22 million dollars paid into Teixeira’s account by GSSG.



The French version of this report can be found here.


English version by Graham Tearse

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