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Honduras Ex-president Pleads Guilty in FIFA Corruption Probe

  • Lou Lorscheider

Former Honduran President Rafael Callejas, center, and his attorney Manuel Retureta, leave federal court in New York, March 28, 2016.

Former Honduran President Rafael Callejas, center, and his attorney Manuel Retureta, leave federal court in New York, March 28, 2016.

A former president of Honduras who later headed the country's football (soccer) federation has pleaded guilty in a U.S. court to racketeering and wire fraud in connection with a wide-ranging FIFA corruption investigation.

Rafael Callejas, a member of FIFA's television and marketing committee, entered the plea Monday in U.S. federal court in New York, admitting to the charges after telling the judge he had accepted bribes and distributed some of the money to others. He also agreed to forfeit $650,000.

The 72-year-old Callejas, president of Honduras from 1990 to 1994, is set to be sentenced August 5. He faces a maximum prison term of 20 years.

The probe gained international attention in May 2015, when 14 FIFA chiefs were arrested, including seven top officials gathered at a hotel in Zurich.

Callejas surrendered to the U.S. court in December, after 16 additional defendants -- most of them from Central and South America -- were charged in a second wave of indictments.

Those arrests came as FIFA's executive committee prepared to announce reforms and transparency measures targeting FIFA procedures for selecting host cities and awarding lucrative marketing and broadcasting rights for the World Cup and tournaments in Latin America.

U.S. prosecutors allege that hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal payments in the past three decades involved the use of U.S. banks. They are also seeking to prove that many planning meetings for those payments occurred on U.S. soil.

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