Former FIFA soccer official pleads guilty in bribery scandal

Former FIFA vice president Alfredo Hawit leaves federal court Monday, April 11, 2016, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Hawit has pleaded guilty to four conspiracy counts in the sweeping FIFA bribery scandal over lucrative broadcast rights. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

NEW YORK (AP) — A former vice president of soccer’s international governing body pleaded guilty to four conspiracy counts Monday in the sweeping FIFA bribery scandal.

Speaking through a translator, Alfredo Hawit told Judge Raymond Dearie in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn that he had accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in connection with a scheme to sell marketing rights to tournaments in Latin America.

Hawit, 64, is free on bail and next appears in court in October. Each count carries a maximum of 20 years in prison; he also will forfeit $950,000 upon sentencing.

Hawit told the judge he had conspired with others to get companies in Florida and Argentina marketing rights in exchange for bribes paid to bank accounts that he and his family controlled in Panama and Honduras.

“I knew that it was wrong of me to accept such payments,” he said.

He and his lawyer declined to comment outside court.

The plea deal is part of a case involving more than 40 people from around the world. Prosecutors said soccer officials have taken hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal payments in the last 25 years.

The Honduras native, a lawyer, also served as interim president of the North and Central American and Caribbean soccer governing body, CONCACAF, from June until his Dec. 3 arrest. He was extradited from Switzerland earlier this year.

Last month Rafael Callejas, a former president of Honduras and member of FIFA’s television and marketing committee, also pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy in a Brooklyn courtroom. Callejas similarly said he had accepted bribes by the Miami-based sports marketing company in exchange for awarding marketing rights to World Cup tournament matches in 2014, 2018 and 2022.

Hawit said that though he had accepted bribes from the Argentine marketing company, including some following a meeting in Uruguay to coordinate the conspiracy, CONCACAF ultimately didn’t award the rights to the Argentine company.

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