Alejandro Burzaco of Argentina, one of six men wanted by Interpol in the FIFA corruption scandal, surrendered himself Tuesday to police in northern Italy. The former CEO of Argentine sports marketing business Torneos y Competencias S.A., Burzaco reportedly had evaded arrest in May in a Swiss hotel, walking out of the hotel after he spotted FBI agents entering to arrest other FIFA executives. He slipped out of the five-star Baur du Lac in Zurich unrecognized or unobserved, and Argentinian media subsequently reported that he fled Europe, according to the Daily Mail.
Burzaco is one of nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives that the U.S. Department of Justice charged with "racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies, among other offenses" as part of "a 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through the corruption of international soccer." The indictment, unsealed May 27 -- the same day as the raid that Burzaco supposedly managed to escape -- alleged that U.S. and South American sports marketing executives had systematically paid at least $150 million in bribes to gain the media and other rights to global soccer tournaments.
Burzaco, as a controlling principal of Torneos y Competencias S.A., along with some of its subsidiaries and affiliates, allegedly played a key role in the conspiracies.
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"Over a period of approximately 25 years, the defendants and their co-conspirators rose to positions of power and influence in the world of organized soccer," the U.S. indictment states. Torneos, headed by Burzaco, both competed with and worked alongside similar organizations to gain business from soccer organizations in South America and the Caribbean, and in doing so, "paid bribes and kickbacks" to officials from those organizations "to obtain and retain media rights contracts," according to the indictment.
In one instance, Burzaco, along with defendants Hugo and Mariano Jinkis, banded together to form Datisa, an entity that entered into a $317.5 million contract with Conmebol, the South American Football Federation, to gain exclusive media rights to the 2015, 2019 and 2023 Copa America as well as the 2016 Copa America Centenario, according to the indictment. It acquired the same rights from Concacaf, the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football. To get those rights, Datisa paid $110 million bribes to league officials, the indictment said.
Burzaco also dealt directly with bribe payments and communications regarding them, including how money would change hands in a way that suggested an attempt to conceal bribery, according to the indictment. Such money-laundering efforts involved currency dealers, Swiss bank accounts and intermediaries.
He was being held in a jail cell while awaiting a hearing, the Associated Press reported. Italian police official Giuseppe Tricarico told the AP that Burzaco had been "searched for across the world."