Rafael Callejas, a former president of Honduras, pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges Monday, admitting that he took bribes over broadcast rights in the FIFA soccer scandal.
Callejas, a member of FIFA’s television and marketing committee and the country’s president from 1990 to 1994, told the judge in a Brooklyn federal courtroom that he had taken bribes and distributed some of the money to others, acts that he acknowledged knowing were wrong. He pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy, with each charge including a maximum of 20 years in prison. He also agreed to forfeit $650,000 and sentencing was set for Aug. 5, according to the Associated Press.
So far, about 20 soccer officials have been indicted on charges related to the United States’ investigation into soccer corruption. Arrests were first made last May, with 14 people charged, including seven top FIFA officials.
Sixteen other defendants, mostly from Central and South America, were charged in the fall, with five current and former members of FIFA’s executive committee arrested. In November, Callejas was charged in connection with bribery in connection with broadcasting and hosting rights for the World Cup and other soccer events. Prosecutors allege that hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal payments were made over the last 25 years.
The widening FIFA scandal cost Sepp Blatter his job as president and earned him an eight-year suspension from the sport. Michel Platini, the president of soccer’s governing body in Europe, also stepped down and was similarly banned. Both men are expected to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Gianni Infantino was elected to succeed Blatter, who had been FIFA president since 1998, in February.