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Ex-Nicaraguan soccer official pleads guilty in U.S. bribery case

A former FIFA official from Nicaragua who was responsible for overseeing the soccer governing body’s development efforts in Central America pleaded guilty on Wednesday to U.S. charges stemming from a wide-ranging bribery investigation.

Julio Rocha, who is also a former president of the Nicaraguan soccer federation, pleaded guilty in federal court in Brooklyn to charges of racketeering conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy, prosecutors said.

 

As part of his plea, Rocha, 66, agreed to forfeit over $292,000, prosecutors said. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison on each count.

Rocha is one of 42 people and entities charged as part of a U.S. investigation that upended Zurich-based FIFA and the soccer world. To date, 20 people and two companies have pleaded guilty in connection with the probe.

Prosecutors said the defendants engaged in more than $200 million in bribes and kickbacks that were sought and received by soccer officials for marketing and broadcasting rights to tournaments and matches.

Rocha was extradited in May from Switzerland, where a year earlier he was one of seven soccer officials arrested at a Zurich hotel as U.S. prosecutors unveiled the first wave of charges in the case.

Rocha was president of the Nicaraguan soccer federation, the Federacion Nicaraguense de Futbol, from 1998 to 2012, and was president of the Central American Football Union from 2003 to 2007. He became a FIFA development officer based in Panama in 2013.

Prosecutors said Rocha accepted over $150,000 in bribes to help the Miami unit of sports marketing firm Traffic Group obtain the media and marketing rights for the Nicaraguan soccer team’s qualifier matches for multiple World Cup editions, including the 2014 and 2018 ones.

Prosecutors said even after he stepped down as the federation’s president, Rocha kept trying to obtain bribes in connection with the Traffic Group unit’s negotiations for the rights to the Nicaragua’s 2022 World Cup qualifier matches.

Prior to his plea, Rocha had been one of five defendants set to face trial in November 2017.

About the author

Jade Webster

Jade Webster

Jade Webster has rejoined the Cayman 27 Team as Sports Reporter/ Producer in August 2016. Jade has a background in News and has developed a passion for Sports while covering international Games. Jade was one of 35 Young Reporters selected worldwide to be apart of the Young Reporters Programme by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) at the Second Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China. She was awarded the 'Best IOC Young Reporter', and went on to cover the Second Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lilehammer, Norway. Jade was also selected as a Young Reporter in 2015 to cover the Toronto Pan American Games, where she was awarded a Hockey Stick for her hard-work and dedication. Jade was the Press Officer for the Cayman Islands Olympic Committee at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janerio, Brazil. She graduated with honors in Broadcast Journalism from the University of South Florida

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