Around 600 officials from the world of football gathered in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, on Thursday, the colorfully decorated BK Arena was jam-packed. At the annual congress of the world association Fifa, the most important figures sat in the front row: President Gianni Infantino, Secretary General Fatma Samoura and the vice presidents. One of them: Alejandro Domínguez from Paraguay, head of the South American continental association Conmebol.
And this man could face problems – due to investigations by the association’s own ethics committee, which in recent years has imposed numerous lifelong bans on numerous high-ranking officials for corrupt practices. As WELT learned, a complaint against Domínguez was filed with the committee in August last year, made by “Sin Falta”, a group of Paraguayan investigative journalists.
The documents and information relevant to this case, which are available to WELT, indicate that the ethics commissioners have no choice but to investigate Domínguez. The accusation: When he was still president of the Paraguayan national association, he is said to have sold off a contract for the TV rights for World Cup qualifiers for the domestic national team for much less money than possible – in return for kickback payments, i.e. secret commissions ?
Documents show that Domínguez had a $17 million contract from Uruguayan agency Tenfield that was ready to be signed. Instead of striking, Domínguez accepted a deal with the Paraguayan company “Ciffart” – which offered almost eight million dollars less. A decision that he – according to a former colleague from the Presidium – made on his own. Domínguez doesn’t want to talk about business. The 51-year-old ignored several requests for talks from WELT.
The fact is: “Ciffart” was a camouflage for the real backers – the Argentine company “Full Play”, which had stretched a corruption net across South American football for years. The business model was simple: the heads of the associations always gave the same companies TV and marketing rights and received bribes in return. The mafia-like machinations that have been going on for decades have been in the works since May 2015, when FBI agents stormed a luxury hotel in front of the then Fifa Congress in Zurich, arrested officials and the corruption investigations by the US Department of Justice became known.
Since then, dozens of corrupt officials have been sentenced around the world, and some are still fighting to be extradited to the United States. Fifa President Sepp Blatter, who had never been proven to have accepted bribes, but who turned a blind eye to the crimes in his environment, also fell after 17 years in office. Crimes that were mainly committed in South America and that became public not least because of the Argentine businessman and rights marketer Alejandro Burzaco, himself a member of the gangs for many years.
Burzaco, wanted by the US authorities, turned himself in to the police in Italy two weeks after the Zurich raid and became the key witness for the American investigators; he should get a much lighter sentence. In various court cases since 2017, Burzaco has provided information about what happened behind the scenes of South American football for many years and explained the mechanisms in detail. He also mentioned Alejandro Domínguez, who had long been promoted by his compatriot Juan Angel Napout.
Napout was Paraguay’s head of the association for many years and became head of Conmebol in 2014. In 2015 he was arrested, extradited to the US and sentenced to nine years in prison for corruption; the Fifa ethics committee banned him for life. At the New York court trial, Burzaco said under oath that Napout had told him about an agreement to pay bribes to Domínguez. He explicitly referred to the deal that the Paraguayan federation had made with “Ciffart”.
It is explosive that Santiago Peña, the former accountant of the rights marketer “Full Play”, another US key witness testified in court that he had paid a total of 2.5 million US dollars in bribes to Paraguayan association officials – in the context of the Allocation of the World Cup TV rights for the local national team.
In addition to the documents relating to the allegations, audio recordings were also made available to the Fifa Ethics Committee, which are said to suggest Domínguez’s involvement in prohibited practices. How the panel will deal with the matter is unclear; In principle, the commissioners do not comment on ongoing investigations. Domínguez himself had stated in a civil lawsuit against former world-class Paraguayan goalkeeper José Luis Chilavert, with whom he has been in a clinch for years, that he had already accepted the nine-million-dollar deal when the better offer arrived; accordingly, he could not have done anything more. According to WELT information, the contract with “Ciffart” states that the agreement can be terminated in the event of a higher-priced offer.
In Kigali, possible ethics investigations were only an issue behind the scenes, nobody wanted to speak publicly in conversation with WELT. Fifa itself did not elect Domínguez, the head of a continental association automatically holds the office of vice-president of the world association.
Domínguez has been seen as a potential successor to Gianni Infantino in recent years, but nothing has been heard of it lately. And now, for the time being, a Paraguayan presidency is no longer an issue anyway. On Thursday, Infantino was re-elected until 2027. He was the only candidate, elected by acclamation. Alejandro Domínguez politely applauded.