Argentina, Russia, the World Cup. Each with a long history and each may have connections to the other that could surprise a person.
The World Cup is not only the most popular sporting event in the world, it is probably the even most infested with mafia money. Many people in South America are already saying the fix is in. With a culture of corruption in Latin America, everyone tries to get their piece of the pie before the elected leaders, and their friends take it all.
Siemens is Just One Example
Siemens, the giant German company whose main activities are energy, transportation and healthcare, was recently caught greasing palms in Argentina.
Ten years of bribery on a mammoth scale in Argentina has finally caught up with the culprits and they have to answer for the $US100 million they paid in bribes to Argentine government officials between 1996 and 2007. The recipients of the bribes include two former Argentine Presidents and a large handful of ministers.
Besides being cozy with government thieves mascaradeing as officials in Argentina, several of the Siemens executives have documented ties to Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin.
The company’s former offices at the corner of Plaza de Mayo on Julio Roca Street in Buenos Aires are empty now. Once they were filled with laptops, files and enough paperwork to rewrite the constitution and give each Argentine a personal copy. Siemens isn’t the only case of bribery in Argentina, just the latest and biggest.
Corruption Has Ruined Argentina
Argentina has raised corruption to an art form. Once economically on par with America and Australia, corruption at the highest levels has trickled down the ranks and now it is difficult to find an honest businessman. In the land of tango, it’s well known that corruption permeates Argentina. No one is surprised when they find that sliding an envelope with cash to the right official is a requirement for getting things done.
Wikileaks revealed that a number of international diplomats are worried about the level of corruption occurring in South America’s second largest country. Anyone over the age of ten knows that when there is corruption at the highest levels there will be corruption at all levels — all the way to the bottom. The poorest in Argentina can’t be blamed for cheating the system to get the most they can when their leaders have been doing it for decades.
The President, Cristina Kirchner, has long been the subject of ongoing investigations into the corruption that she and her late husband, and predecessor, Nestor, engaged in. From 1995 until 2007 the Kirchner’s bought and sold land at astronomical profits. Two acres of land that Kirchner bought was sold to a Chilean investment group, seeking to do business in Argentina, for $2 million — 40 times what Kirchner had paid for it.
In the fall of 2013, Kirchner was the subject of a series of investigative reporter Jorge LaNata. Documenting the corruption on live television, LaNata detailed the millions that Kirchner has smuggled out of the country, the vault built in her home in Southern Argentina and her ties with organized crime. The Argentines watched, enthralled, then shrugged and turned the dial. Kirchner, according to the viewing public, was just having another day at the office where greed and inefficiency have come to be expected.
Part of the Kirchner’s fortune has been supplied by the Argentine mafia which bankrolled Cristina Kirchner’s first run for Casa Rosada. With money made through money laundering, narcotics trafficking, human trafficking and gambling, the President and mafia have close ties going back years. That money has also twisted the second great religion in the country — soccer. Referees are bought, players bribed and matches fixed — all with mafia money.
Mangled by years of repeated scandals, the Argentine soccer federation is starting to find its formerly good reputation absent. To address the problems, reforms have been proposed to end the corruption, but have been met with blank faces and stares by soccer fans. The culture of corruption in Argentina is so pervasive that everyone knows it’s going on. Most though just shrug their shoulders in typical Argentine manner and say, “What are you going to do?”
In 2008 Alimzhan Tokhtakhunov was listed on Forbes 10 Most Wanted List. Coming in at number three, Tokhtakhunov was just two slots behind Osama bin Laden. In 2011, Tokhtakhunov had dropped on the list, but still managed to stay in the seventh position.
Federal law enforcement agents in America have been chasing Tokhtakhunov (pronounced toe-TAH-hoon-ov) since 2002. That was the year he was charged with fixing pairs skating and ice dancing competition during the Salt Lake City Olympics.
According to the American Justice Department, Tokhtakhunov has also ran high-stakes, international gambling in addition to a multi-national money-laundering ring. Charged in Manhattan in April 2014 with being the leader of a sports betting ring with operations in New York, Los Angeles, Russia, Ukraine and some say, Buenos Aires, Tokhtakhunov has allegedly raked in billions of dollars through global connections.
The American indictment says that Toktakhounov is a special type of Russian criminal known as a “Vor v Zakone.” Roughly translated “thief in law,” Tokhtakhunov is a member of an almost priestly order that grew from the prison hierarchies in the old gulag system and they live by a very strict code. They never marry, work or tell lies.
Mark Galeotti, an authority on Russian criminality, says that Tokhtakhunov is one of the last of the godfathers. Tokhtakhunov’s name “…is one that virtually every Russian gangster recognizes,” Galeotti said.
Sources within Argentina believe that Toktakhounov is working to expand his empire to Tigre, the resort-of-choice for known members of the Argentine mafia. If Toktakhounov does come to Argentina, he’ll have plenty of company with whom he can be comfortable. Many of his countrymen — and politicians — are already working at making inroads into South America.
Russia and Argentina Connection
Argentina has agreed to host Russian military bases on the South American continent. While the rest of the world, along with the United States, has been fascinated by what is happening in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has been inking deals with numerous leaders in Latin America.
The Russian Defense Minister, Sergei Shoigu, has already been in Buenos Aires to set up arm forces units and putting deals in place to increase munitions sales inside Latin America.
An ally of militant Islamists, Argentina is in a good spot to nurture a cozy three-way relationship. Battling with the IMF, Argentina desperately needs to find economic partners. With the US giving South America the cold shoulder, Argentina appears to be looking across the dance floor at Russia and Iran.
So, is the typical soccer match fixed and the winner pre-determined? Unequivocally, yes. The only question now left is, how far abroad does the fix go?