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Sunday, June 16, 2024 | Back issues
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Sports Executive Admits Bribing FIFA Officials

(CN) — A sports marketing executive pleaded guilty Thursday of paying more than $14 million in bribes to a FIFA executive in exchange for media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments and matches.

Aaron Davidson, 45, pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy in federal court in Brooklyn.

Davidson was the president of Traffic Sports USA, a Miami-based sports marketing company, when he was arrested on May 27, 2015.

Davidson, while working for Traffic USA, paid bribes to a high-ranking official of FIFA, CONCACAF, the Caribbean Football Union, and one of FIFA's national member associations in order to obtain lucrative media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments and matches for Traffic USA and its business partners.

Some of the events involved were FIFA World Cup qualifiers, the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the CONCACAF Champions League, and the Copa América Centenario, a tournament jointly organized by CONCACAF and CONMEBOL, the South American soccer confederation.

Davidson, as part of his plea before U.S. District Judge Pamela K. Chen, agreed to forfeit $507,906.84. He faces up to 20 years in prison for each count.

The guilty plea announced today is part of an investigation into corruption in international soccer being led by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York, the FBI New York Field Office, and the IRS-CI Los Angeles Field Office.

In May 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted 14 top FIFA executive on bribery and corruption charges. In December, FIFA President Sepp Blatter and UEFA President Michel Platini were banned for eight years from all football-related activities by FIFA's ethics committee. That same month, 16 more officials were charged with bribery including former Brazil football federation chief Ricardo Teixeira, who was among those accused of being involved in criminal schemes involving well over $200m in bribes and kickbacks.

The government's investigation is ongoing.

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