A former high-ranking football official in the Americas pleaded guilty on Monday (11 April) to charges that he participated in bribery schemes uncovered in a U.S. investigation of corruption in the sport’s world governing body, FIFA.
Alfredo Hawit, a former FIFA Vice-President from Honduras who also led the North and Central America and Caribbean confederation, CONCACAF, pleaded guilty in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, to four conspiracy charges.
Hawit is one of 42 individuals and entities charged as part of a U.S. investigation of more than $200 million in bribes and kickbacks sought and received by soccer officials for marketing and broadcast rights to tournaments and matches.
The investigation has sent Switzerland-based FIFA and other soccer governing bodies into an unprecedented crisis. Gianni Infantino, FIFA’s newly elected president, has vowed to restore FIFA’s image.
Hawit, 64, pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, two counts of wire fraud conspiracy and conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice. He will forfeit US $950,000 as part of his plea agreement.
Speaking in Spanish, the defendant admitted in court to having received hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from two sports marketing companies that were seeking media rights for soccer matches.
“I knew it was wrong for me to accept such undisclosed payments,” Hawit said through a translator.
To date, 15 people and two sports marketing companies have pleaded guilty in the U.S. case, including Caymanian and former President of CONCACAF and the Cayman Islands Football Association, Jeffrey Webb. Prosecutors in a court filing on 28 March said they were in plea negotiations with multiple defendants.
Hawit had been arrested at a Zurich hotel on 3 December along with South American football chief Juan Angel Napout as the U.S. Department of Justice unveiled charges against 16 people for participating in the bribery schemes.