Federal Judge María Servini de Cubría today prosecuted a number of important figures implicated in an alleged embezzlement scheme involving Fútbol Para Todos (FPT), the government-sponsored program that broadcasts the national football league on public television.
According to Cubría, there’s enough evidence to conclude that funds destined to the program were embezzled at a number of levels:
- Cabinet chiefs are accused of keeping some of the State funds destined for the Argentine Football Association (AFA).
- The AFA is accused of hanging on to some of those State funds destined for the football clubs that take part in AFA tournaments.
- Football club managers are accused of pocketing money allocated by the AFA destined for the clubs themselves.
Let’s break this all down according to each alleged embezzling party:
Aníbal Fernández, Jorge Capitanich and Juan Manuel Abal Medina, all cabinet chiefs during former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s administration since 2009 (the year FPT began) were prosecuted today because, according to Cubría’s investigation, the funds the government was supposed to give the AFA didn’t all make it to the football clubs.
All three former cabinet chiefs have defended themselves by saying that they transferred funds like they were supposed to and that the money must have been embezzled by the AFA: “The State can’t control the AFA. [The cabinet chief’s] responsibility ends there,” said Jorge Capitanich in a written statement he presented before the judge in May.
“The cabinet chief doesn’t have the power to control what clubs do with the funds. I consulted experts and they told me that the State stops being responsible as soon as it pays up. AFA has to answer for this,” added Aníbal Fernández when he addressed press shortly after handing over a written statement of his own.
But Cubría doesn’t appear to believe them, hence the prosecutions.
The AFA is going through an unprecedented institutional crisis. On top of the embezzlement accusations, the presidents of the country’s most important clubs — River Plate, Boca Juniors, San Lorenzo and Racing (Independiente didn’t join) — are planning to break away from the AFA and create a so-called “Super League.”
AFA’s interim President Luis Segura and several other high-ranking officials were all prosecuted today regarding the alleged FPT embezzlement scheme.
The Football Players’ Union and the Footballer Foundation, two organizations destined to help football players in need, received AR $90 million from AFA after they brokered a deal with its then president, the late Julio Grondona in 2010.
However, Cubría’s investigation found enough evidence to believe they might have never passed the money on. According to Infobae, a raid conducted by the police this month revealed they were currently keeping US $2.1 million in cash. Moreover, an audit on the organization’s books also revealed that only 4 percent of their expenses were actually used to provide medical help to the affiliates, which, in theory, is one of their main purposes.
However, just like the cabinet chiefs, Segura accused the clubs of taking the missing funds. Why? Let’s go to the last link of the chain to explain his theory.
Last year, an audit conducted by a former AFA treasurer determined that as of October 2015, clubs had a AR $995 million debt with AFA. The number in 2014 was AR $754 million.
Shortly after the numbers came to light, Segura announced he wouldn’t run for office in the institution’s next elections. His reasons were that there was no money at all in the coffers because “clubs had taken more money than they should have. It’s unbelievable.”
Funny he should say that, actually. According to this same audit, Argentinos Juniors, the club he also presides over, was allocated AR $61 million between 2014 and 2015. However, the club increased its debt with AFA by 48 percent, from AR $49.8 million to AR $73.9 million.
Other teams also had similar difficulties making their numbers add up. However, no club manager was formally accused of embezzlement (Segura is also Argentinos Juniors’s President, but he was prosecuted as AFA’s president).
All Together Now: Clubs and AFA
In April this year, the national tax collecting agency (AFIP) formally accused AFA and several first division teams of owing it AR $400 million. In a press release, AFIP said that teams retained AR$ 137 million from their players to allegedly pay their respective income taxes, but never followed up.
Moreover, AFIP requested the clubs’ assets be seized to get the money: “Criminal responsibility could reach the clubs’ presidents and board members who, using their authority, would’ve illegitimately appropriated sums that belong to the national fiscal agency,” a passage from the release reads.
Once this part of the investigation is concluded, Cubría will send all of the evidence to the Prosecutor Eduardo Taiano who will decide if he takes the case to trial. So we’ll see if more former Kirchnerite officials face legal trouble.