A former high-ranking officer in the global football (soccer) federation FIFA has pleaded guilty in U.S. federal court to fraud and conspiracy charges stemming from a wide-ranging FIFA corruption probe.
Monday's guilty plea by former FIFA vice president Alfredo Hawit marks the second time in two weeks that a high-profile Honduran national has formally admitted guilt in the U.S.-led probe.
On March 28, former Honduran President Rafael Callejas entered similar pleas in New York and faces a maximum 20-year prison term when sentenced later this year.
In federal court Monday, Hawit told the U.S. District Court Judge Raymond Dearie that he had accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes linked to a scheme to sell lucrative marketing rights to tournament mangers in Argentina and the United States. He also agreed to forfeit $950,000.
"I knew that it was wrong of me to accept such payments," he said.
U.S. Attorney Robert Capers, in a statement Monday, said Hawit negotiated many of those bribes with the Florida-based sports marketing company Media World. That scheme centered on marketing rights to the Honduran national soccer team's World Cup qualifier matches for 2014, 2018 and 2022.
Like the former president, Hawit is set to be sentenced in October and faces a possible 20-year prison term.
The Hawit plea is part of a case involving more than 40 suspects from across the globe.
In it, U.S. prosecutors allege that hundreds of millions of dollars had illegally changed hands in the past three decades. Prosecutors also allege that most all of the alleged and admitted corruption involved the use of U.S. banks, and say many of the planning meetings for those payments occurred on U.S. soil.
The probe gained international attention in May 2015, when 14 FIFA chiefs were arrested, including seven top officials attending a meeting in Zurich.