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Former FIFA big shot pleads guilty to racketeering and corruption

A former FIFA vice president and executive committee member pleaded guilty in federal court in Manhattan Monday to taking bribes to award media and marketing rights to FIFA World Cup qualifier matches and CONCACAF tournaments.

Alfredo Hawit also formerly served as president of CONCACAF and as president and general secretary of the Honduran soccer federation (FENAFUTH).

Hawit, 64, a citizen of Honduras, pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering conspiracy, two counts of wire fraud conspiracy, and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice.

He faces up to 20 years for each count. No sentencing date was set.

As part of his guilty plea, Hawit agreed to forfeit $950,000.

He appeared before United States District Judge Raymond Dearie.

Starting in 2008, Hawit took hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from Media World, a Florida sports marketing company, in exchange for FENAFUTH contracts.

The contracts were for the media and marketing rights to the Honduran national soccer team’s home World Cup qualifier matches for the 2014, 2018, and 2022 editions of the World Cup, the DOJ said.

Media World sent the bribes from its U.S. bank accounts through an intermediary to foreign bank accounts controlled by the Hawit’s family members and by a co-conspirator, according to the DOJ. 

Hawit told the co-conspirator to create sham contracts to mask the bribes and to lie to law enforcement officers.

In 2011 and 2012, Hawit used his influence as acting president of CONCACAF to award an Argentina sports marketing company the media and marketing rights to CONCACAF tournaments, including the Gold Cup and the CONCACAF Champions League, the DOJ said.

CONCACAF is the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football. It’s the governing body for association football in North America, Central America, and the Caribbean.

Last week the former president of Honduras who led the Honduran soccer federation from 2002 to 2015 pleaded guilty in federal court in Brooklyn to two conspiracy counts of racketeering and wire fraud.

Rafael Callejas, 72, took bribes in exchange for contracts for the media and marketing rights to FIFA World Cup qualifier matches.

He was the president of Honduras from 1990 to 1994.

Callejas also took bribes to steer contracts to Media World.

The DOJ has charged 42 defendants in the FIFA corruption prosecution. About 15 defendants have pleaded guilty.

Under a 92-count superseding indictment unsealed in December, most of the defendants were charged with racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering conspiracies.

In December last year, the DOJ executed a search warrant at Media World’s offices in Miami.

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.

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