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FIFA Corruption: Sounds Like Cheese, Costs Like House in NYC area

FIFA Corruption: Sounds Like Cheese, Costs Like House in NYC area

A new chapter of the FIFA corruption scandal revolves around things that have a name that sounds like your favorite cheese, but are worth more than a new house in Brooklyn Heights. Those things are 48 luxury wristwatches the soccer officials received last year as a gift from the Brazil Football Federation. Now, FIFA got them back just to give them away for charity.

Brazil hosted the FIFA World Cup

Luxury gifts for the special guests

Last year, when Brazil hosted the FIFA World Cup, all the officials of the world soccer governing body received a special gift—a leather bag with a few little presents: tourism books, a Brazil jersey, a key ring, and a wristwatch made by a little-known Swiss brand Parmigiani.

Some guests figured that the watch was more than just a welcome gift and gave them to FIFA. The rest of the FIFA officials accepted all the gifts, including the watch. Little did they know that that watch was worth about $26,000.

This year, U.S. prosecutors uncovered tons of facts that prove just how corrupt FIFA is. There are ten FIFA officials who face corruption charges. Jose Maria Marin, the head of the Brazilian Football Federation—the soccer governing body that used Parmigiani watches last year to welcome FIFA officials to the World Cup—is among those ten.

A witch hunt in FIFA

A witch hunt in FIFA

Trying to restore its reputation and clear its name, the biggest soccer governing body started a witch hunt after those who accepted a luxury gift from Brazilian colleagues. On Thursday, Nov. 26, FIFA has announced that the Association got 48 luxury accessories back. FIFA is going to use them as a charity donation, according to the Association’s statement.

The Brazilian soccer governing body claims it had distributed 65 Parmigiani watches, but only 57 were given to the most precious guests. Since FIFA got back 48 watches, nine more items are still somewhere out there. The Brazilian Football Federation gave FIFA a list of all the 57 recipients, and the people from the FIFA ethics committee’s investigatory chamber carefully researched each one of them.

FIFA did not identify the nine soccer officials who did not return the luxury accessories, but there is information that one of those nine people is a defendant in the current case. That person insists that he took the Parmigiani wristwatch to Zürich in May, planning to surrender the Brazilian gift, but he was arrested along with other FIFA authorities before he could do that. Those eight people who did not give their watches back to FIFA claimed that they lost it or did not receive the gift in the first place.

Who knew Parmigiani was worth thousands of dollars?

Who knew Parmigiani was worth thousands of dollars?

Curiously, most of the FIFA officials who got the wristwatches last summer insist they did not know the real value of the gift. “Who’s ever heard of Parmigiani?” said Michel D’Hooghe, the Royal Belgian Football Association’s honorary president in his recent interview. Mr. D’Hooghe confessed that to him Parmigiani sounds like “something you put on spaghetti.”

Mr. D’Hooghe also said that he gave the watch to one of his friends as a simple souvenir of the World Cup. The FIFA official was very surprised and confused when people from the ethics committee contacted him and asked him to give the watch back. With no other choice but to return it, Mr. D’Hooghe had to ask his friend to give the gift back. “It was not very honorable for me,” complained the soccer official.

Meanwhile, the watches the Brazilian federation acquired directly from the Swiss company cost around $26,000 per piece. But since the Brazilian soccer federation and Parmigiani are partners, the final cost of the notorious watches was only $8,750.

Now, FIFA is going to give all the 48 wristwatches to the Street Football World charity. According to Jürgen Griesbeck, the founder of the charity organization, they will reinvest all the money raised back in soccer. For now, the Street Football World plans to use the money received from sold watches in Brazilian grassroots soccer.

According to the New York Times, the possible cost of all the confiscated Parmigiani accessories may be as high as $1.2 million. So, if the Street Football World will keep its word, the Brazilian youth will receive significant financial support.

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