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When the Panama Papers were released this week, promising to expose "politicians, criminals, and the rogue industry that hides their cash," let's say we weren't surprised to see FIFA's name pop up. FIFA, the world's governing body for soccer, has long faced accusations of endemic corruption. FIFA's past "President for Life," Sepp Blatter, only recently fell from grace and is now facing criminal charges for mismanagement and misappropriation.
But it's not just the familiar FIFA names that are being accused of corruption. In a most ironic twist, FIFA's ethics lawyer is now facing a corruption investigation over links revealed by the Panama Papers.
The Beautiful Game of Money Laundering
The latest FIFA scandal involves business ties between Juan Pedro Damiani and three men facing charges for money laundering and wire fraud. Damiani is a Uruguayan lawyer, president of Club Atlético Peñarol, a Montevidean soccer team, and member of FIFA's ethics committee.
The Panama Papers apparently show that Damiani and his law firm worked for seven offshore companies linked to accused money launderer, and former FIFA vice president, Eugenio Figueredo, CNN reports. The documents also connect Damiani to Hugo and Mariano Jinkis, a father and son sports marketing team who are, along with Figueredo, facing criminal corruption charges in the United States.
Damiani hasn't been accused of breaking the law, but FIFA has opened up an internal investigation. The ethics lawyer, of course, is denying any wrong doing, claiming he and his firm "did not maintain any business relationship or conduct business" directly with Figueredo or the Jinkises.
Another for Good Measure
Members of FIFA's ethics committee aren't the only ones coming under fire because of the Panama Papers. Gianni Infantino, Sepp Blatter's replacement and current president of the organization, has been connected to corruption as well.
As the British newspaper The Guardian reports, the Panama Papers raise questions at Infantino's role "in deals that were concluded when he was director of legal services at UEFA, European' football's governing body." Those include off-shore deals, co-signed by Infantino, connecting UEFA to the fraud and corruption that took down Sepp Blatter.
Like Damiani, Infantino denies any wrongdoing. He's "dismayed" by the reports, according to The Guardian, and "will not accept that my integrity is being doubted."