Carolina RailHawks ownership executive indicted in FIFA corruption scandal

Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network

CARY, N.C. – Aaron Davidson, president of Traffic USA (aka Traffic Sports, Inc.), the owner of the NASL’s Carolina RailHawks, was one of 14 people indicted on charges of racketeering conspiracy and corruption, according to a United States Department of Justice announcement released on Wednesday.

According to the announcement, “a 47-count indictment was unsealed early this morning in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, charging 14 defendants with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies, among other offenses, in connection with the defendants’ participation in a 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through the corruption of international soccer.”

Nine high ranking officials with FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, as well as five sports marketing executives, including Davidson, were “alleged to have systematically paid and agreed to pay well over $150 million in bribes and kickbacks to obtain lucrative media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments.”

The DOJ also included details to previous guilty pleas that were unsealed from four individual and two corporate defendants.

Guilty pleas included those of Charles Blazer, the long-serving former general secretary of CONCACAF and former U.S. representative on the FIFA executive committee and José Hawilla, the owner and founder of the Traffic Group, a multinational sports marketing conglomerate headquartered in Brazil that oversees the operation of Traffic Sports International Inc. and Traffic Sports USA Inc., Davidson’s company, which is based in Florida.

“The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States,” said Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch.

“It spans at least two generations of soccer officials who, as alleged, have abused their positions of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks. And it has profoundly harmed a multitude of victims, from the youth leagues and developing countries that should benefit from the revenue generated by the commercial rights these organizations hold, to the fans at home and throughout the world whose support for the game makes those rights valuable. Today’s action makes clear that this Department of Justice intends to end any such corrupt practices, to root out misconduct, and to bring wrongdoers to justice – and we look forward to continuing to work with other countries in this effort.”

The release also included the statement, “the charges in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.”

Read the full Department of Justice release here.