Concacaf Sues Travel Company for Allegedly Bribing Officials

  • Cartan Tours had `outrageously lucrative' deal, group says
  • Ex-Concacaf president Webb pleaded guilty amid soccer probes

Professional soccer’s governing body in Central and North America and the Caribbean sued a travel provider it claims paid former executives to win high-paying contracts for its events.

Cartan Tours Inc. obtained an “outrageously lucrative arrangement” by paying kickbacks to officials of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football, including the organization’s former president, Jeffrey Webb, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit was filed the same day that FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, banned its long-time president Joseph “Sepp” Blatter and European soccer boss Michel Platini for eight years in a kickback scandal that surfaced in May when Swiss authorities arrested seven soccer officials charged by U.S. prosecutors with bribery and money laundering.

According to the Concacaf’s complaint filed Monday in Los Angeles federal court, the cost of the Gold Cup, the organization’s main soccer tournament for national teams held every two years, doubled from 2011 to 2013 because of inflated billing by the travel services provider.

“The Cartan relationship with Concacaf was a distorted one-sided affair in which Cartan used Concacaf as a proverbial cash cow, overinflating charges, overstaffing events, and increasing Concacaf’s logistical expenses because Cartan received an 18 percent management fee on top of every dollar Concacaf spent on logistics for its events, large and small,” the organization said.

Concacaf seeks no less than $50 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

Representatives of Cartan in Manhattan Beach, California, didn’t immediately return a phone call after regular business hours Tuesday seeking comment on the lawsuit.

The company got the exclusive rights to provide all travel, accommodation and event planning services for Concacaf, according to complaint. It charged exorbitant prices for inferior services, the organization said.

Webb was one of nine FIFA officials at FIFA and five marketing executives charged in a racketeering and bribery indictment unsealed May 27. The U.S. said Webb took millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks for media rights to soccer tournaments.

He pleaded guilty last month in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, after agreeing to be extradited to the U.S.

The case is Concacaf v. Elmore Sports Group Ltd, 15-09774, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.