Sun, Jul 31, 2016 - Page 12 News List

Former Guatemala soccer chief guilty of bribery charges

Reuters, NEW YORK

A former president of Guatemala’s soccer federation on Friday pleaded guilty to charges he received bribes to award lucrative media and marketing rights for soccer matches, the latest development in the US corruption investigation into world soccer’s governing body FIFA.

Brayan Jimenez said he was guilty of racketeering conspiracy and wire fraud charges at a hearing in federal court in front of US Magistrate Judge Robert Levy. Jimenez also agreed to forfeit US$350,000.

MEDIA CONTRACTS

Jimenez is accused of taking hundreds of thousands of US dollars in bribes in exchange for authorizing “friendly” matches played by the Guatemalan national soccer team and for awarding contracts for media rights for the team’s FIFA World Cup qualifier matches to the sports marketing firm Media World.

The company is a subsidiary of Imagina US, the Miami-based affiliate of Spanish media giant Imagina group.

BRIBES

“Over a period of years, Media World transmitted these bribes from its US bank accounts to the defendant and a co-conspirator, often using intermediaries in the US and Guatemala,” the US Department of Justice said in its announcement of the plea.

Lawyers representing Jimenez did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Jimenez, who had been president of the nation’s soccer federation since 2010, was arrested in Guatemala in January and later extradited to the US. He now faces a maximum sentence of 20 years for each count.

US$200 MILLION

Jimenez is among 42 individuals and entities who have been charged as part of a US investigation into schemes involving more than US$200 million in bribes and kickbacks sought by soccer officials for marketing and broadcast rights to tournaments and matches.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has vowed to lead the organization out of years of scandal even as US and Swiss corruption investigations continue.

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