Ex-Honduras Prez Comes Clean on FIFA Bribes

     BROOKLYN (CN) – Heads continue to roll in the multimillion-dollar bribery scandal darkening the world of soccer and rocking nearly every South American futbol fan.
     Rafel Callejas, the former president of Honduras, pleaded guilty to racketeering charges today for taking bribes that gave contracts to the media and marketing teams the broadcast rights to World Cup matches in the Federation Internationale de Football Association, better known as FIFA.
     At his sentencing in August, 72-year-old Callejas faces up to 20 years in federal prison for each one of the racketeering and wire fraud conspiracy charges against him.
     After his term as president of Honduras from 1990 to 1994, Callejas served as president of that nation’s football club from 2002 to 2015.
     At today’s plea hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Levy, Callejas also agreed to fork over $650,000.
     Hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to Callejas greased the wheels for Media World, a sports-marketing company based in Miami, to win broadcasting rights for the Honduran national soccer team’s World Cup qualifying matches, authorities say.
     The rights covered the matches for the 2014, 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup matches.
     Callejas’ plea comes nearly four months after prosecutors named him in a 92-count superseding indictment in Brooklyn.
     The government said Callejas was one of at least 16 other high-raking people in the football league who, for more than two decades, raked in more than $200 million in bribes to dole out lucrative contracts.
     Also ensnared in the dustup is a former federal judge from Guatemala; regional officers of CONCACAF, short for the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football; and FIFA officers of CONMEBOL, a South America headquartered group whose full name is Confederacion Sudamericana de Futbol.
     Alfredo Hawit, 64, the president of CONCACAF, and Juan Angel Napout, 57, the president of COMMEBOL, still await trial, with U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch working to extradite them.
     The judge who stands accused, 62-year-old Hector Trujillo, also awaits trial.
     To date, at least 41 people and entities have been pulled into the growing legal fray.
     Twelve people have already been convicted, and have agreed to forfeit at least $190 million.
     Of the 16 people already indicted, eight have already pleaded guilty, including two former FIFA executive committee members, the Justice Department announced.
     The scandal has been brewing since at least 1991, Lynch said.
     “Two generations of soccer officials abused their positions of trust for personal gain,” she said in a statement, accusing the defendants of having “shut out competitors and kept highly lucrative contracts for themselves through the systematic payment of bribes and kickbacks.”
     Also pulled into the scandal are Marco Polo del Nero, 74, and Ricardo Teixerira, 69, the current and former presidents of the league’s Brazilian team, and the former members of FIFA’s executive committee.
     The current and former general secretaries of CONMEBOL face charges as well, as do the current and former members of nearly every futbol league in South America, including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama.
     “You will not wait us out,” Lynch warned in December. “You will not escape our focus.”
     FIFA President Sepp Blatter resigned last June. Three other officials were suspended last October.
     A New Jersey-based sports marketing company, Soccer Marketing, agreed to forfeit $2 million last May after it was charged with two counts of committing wire fraud and filing false tax returns. The company’s founder, Zorana Danis, will be sentenced next month.
     Fabio Tordin, the former head of Traffic Sports USA in Miami, pleaded guilty to a four-count charge of wire fraud and tax evasion. He turned over $600,000, and will be sentenced in June.
     Luis Bedoya, 56, a FIFA executive and representative of the Federacion Columbiana de Futbal, already copped to two counts of racketeering and wire fraud. He agreed to turn over all the money in his Swiss bank account, and faces sentencing in June.
     The head of an Argentine sports-marketing company also pleaded guilty last November. Alejandro Burzaco, 51, agreed to turn over more than $21.6 million in ill-begotten gains, and faces sentencing in June.
     Roger Huguet, 52, the CEO of Media World, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering last November. He agreed to pay $600,000.
     Former FIFA vice president and CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb pleaded guilty to similar charges last November, and agreed to give back $6.7 million. He’ll be sentenced in June.
     The vice president of CONMEBOL and the former president of Chile’s futbol team Sergio Jadue, 36, also came clean. He faces sentencing in June.
     Jose Margulies, 76, the head of Valente Corp., the company that swung the deals between the marking executives and soccer officials, pleaded guilty last November to racketeering charges and money laundering. He agreed to give up $9.2 million, and faces sentencing in June.

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