The former president of the Costa Rican soccer federation and a member-elect of the FIFA executive committee pleaded guilty Friday in federal court in Brooklyn, New York to taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes.
Eduardo Li was charged with racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud, and wire fraud conspiracy.
He took bribes in exchange for contracts for the media and marketing rights to FIFA World Cup qualifier matches and Costa Rica national team matches.
Li was the president of the Costa Rican soccer federation (FEDEDUT) from 2007 to 2015.
He was a member-elect of the FIFA executive committee when he was arrested in Zurich on May 27, 2015.
He was also a member of the CONCACAF executive committee from 2013 to 2015. CONCACAF is the governing body for North American soccer.
As part of his plea, Li agreed to forfeit $668,000.
He now faces up to 20 years in prison for each count.
Li agreed to take a $500,000 bribe from intermediaries in Panama for a contract for uniform sponsorship for the Costa Rican national soccer team. He took $230,000 of the bribe money in cash but was arrested before he could take more.
He also embezzled over $90,000 that FIFA sent to FEDEFUT to support the 2014 Under 17 FIFA Women’s World Cup soccer tournament held in Costa Rica. He diverted the money using bogus invoices.
The DOJ has charged 42 defendants in the FIFA corruption prosecution.
Most of the defendants were charged with racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering conspiracies.
About 17 have now pleaded guilty.
In September, FIFA’s ethics committee opened formal proceedings against former FIFA president Sepp Blatter and two of his ex-deputies for taking huge salaries and bonuses.
Facing charges with Blatter are former FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke and former finance director Markus Kattner.
An investigation for FIFA by U.S. law firm Quinn Emanuel found that Blatter, Valcke, and Kattner collected $81 million in compensation from 2011 to 2015.
Quinn Emanuel said in June the payouts resulted from a coordinated effort by the three officials to “enrich themselves through annual salary increases, World Cup bonuses and other incentives.”
Blatter, 80, led FIFA from 1998 until 2015. He has already been banned from soccer for six years.
The ban relates to a $2 million payment to former UEFA president Michel Platin. FIFA made the payment in 2011 for work Platini said he did for FIFA from 1998 to 2002. UEFA is the governing body for European soccer.
Switzerland opened criminal proceedings against Blatter over the Platini payment, alleging mismanagement and misappropriation.
FIFA — the Fédération Internationale de Football Associations — is based in Zurich.
Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He’ll be a speaker at the FCPA Blog NYC Conference 2016.