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Former high-ranking FIFA and CONCACAF official pleads Guilty to Racketeering and Corruption charges

12FIFA-master675From Department of Justice U.S. Attorney’s Office Eastern District of New York

Earlier today [Monday April 11]  in federal court in Brooklyn, Alfredo Hawit, a former FIFA vice president and executive committee member, the former president of CONCACAF, and the former president and general secretary of the Honduran soccer federation (FENAFUTH), pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering conspiracy, two counts of wire fraud conspiracy, and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice in connection with his receipt of bribes in exchange for the awarding of contracts for the media and marketing rights to CONCACAF tournaments and FIFA World Cup qualifier matches. Hawit, who served in high-ranking positions in soccer from 1998 to 2015, also agreed to forfeit $950,000. At sentencing, Hawit faces a maximum sentence of 20 years for each count. Today’s plea proceeding took place before United States District Judge Raymond J. Dearie.

The guilty plea was announced by Robert L. Capers, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Diego G. Rodriguez, Assistant Director in Charge, FBI, New York Field Office; and Acting Special Agent in Charge Anthony J. Orlando, IRS Criminal Investigation, Los Angeles Field Office.

According to court filings and facts presented during the plea proceeding, in approximately 2011 and 2012, Hawit negotiated and accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for his agreement to exercise his influence as acting president of CONCACAF to award an Argentine sports marketing company the media and marketing rights to CONCACAF tournaments, including the Gold Cup and the CONCACAF Champions League. Starting in approximately 2008, Hawit also negotiated and accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for his agreement to exercise his influence as the FENAFUTH general secretary to award contracts to Media World, a Florida sports marketing company, 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. Over a period of years, Media World transmitted these bribes from its U.S. bank accounts, through an intermediary, to foreign bank accounts controlled by the defendant’s family members and by a co-conspirator. In addition, after the original indictment in this case was unsealed on May 27, 2015, Hawit engaged in a conspiracy to obstruct justice, and to tamper with witnesses and evidence, by advising a co-conspirator to create sham contracts in order to mask bribe payments already paid and, if asked, deceive law enforcement officers about the true nature and purpose of bribe payments.

The guilty plea announced today is part of an investigation into corruption in international soccer being led by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, the FBI New York Field Office, and the IRS-CI Los Angeles Field Office. The prosecutors in Brooklyn are receiving considerable assistance from attorneys in various parts of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division in Washington, D.C., including the Office of International Affairs, the Organized Crime and Gang Section, the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, and the Fraud Section, as well as from INTERPOL Washington.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Evan M. Norris, Amanda Hector, Paul Tuchmann, Nadia Shihata, Keith D. Edelman, and Brian D. Morris of the Eastern District of New York are in charge of today’s prosecution.

The government’s investigation is ongoing.

The Defendant:

Age: 64
Nationality: Honduras

E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 15 CR 252 (S-1)

Related story:

Former Concacaf Chief Admits Guilt in FIFA Corruption Case

By REBECCA R. RUIZ The New York Times

Alfredo Hawit, a top world soccer official until December, pleaded guilty on Monday to racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Appearing in United States District Court for the Eastern District, in Brooklyn, Mr. Hawit, 64, admitted to having asked for and accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from soccer marketing executives. He agreed to pay $950,000 to the United States. As the 17th of 42 defendants to be convicted in the Justice Department’s case, he could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison for each count.

Mr. Hawit, a lawyer who previously led the Honduran soccer federation, had assumed a bigger role on the sport’s global stage after the United States announced a sweeping corruption case last spring focused on FIFA, soccer’s governing body.

He stepped in to lead Concacaf, one of FIFA’s six regional confederations, which oversees the sport in North America, Central America and the Caribbean, after its president, Jeffrey Webb, was indicted in May. Mr. Webb has since pleaded guilty.

But six months after taking Mr. Webb’s seat on FIFA’s executive committee and emphasizing cooperation with the investigating authorities, Mr. Hawit himself was drawn into the web of corruption allegations that had unseated his predecessor. Mr. Hawit was arrested in Zurich, roused from bed in a predawn police raid at the same five-star hotel where Mr. Webb had been arrested.

After spending a month in jail in Zurich, Mr. Hawit agreed to be extradited to the United States early this year. He was released on a $1 million bond and has been living in the Miami area with his daughter and his grandson.

At a bail hearing in January, Mr. Hawit estimated his net worth to be $2 million, money he said was tied up in properties that were either heavily mortgaged or held in the name of his wife, who works as a consultant for about $2,000 a month. Asking about his bank balances, prosecutors noted that some of the bribe money Mr. Hawit was accused of accepting had been funneled through an offshore account in Panama held in his wife’s name.
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“There are bank accounts,” Justin Weddle, a lawyer for Mr. Hawit, told a federal judge in January. “I don’t think they have tens of millions of dollars in them,” estimating that the account balances were “negligible.”

Mr. Weddle declined to comment on Monday.

The $950,000 that Mr. Hawit agreed to pay to authorities is part of more than $200 million that authorities have now been promised by the 17 convicted defendants. Among them is Rafael Callejas, a colleague of Mr. Hawit’s from the Honduran soccer federation and a former president of the Republic of Honduras, who pleaded guilty last month.

For the eight men in the United States who have pleaded not guilty and are fighting the charges against them, a trial date is expected to be scheduled soon, possibly on Wednesday of this week.

IMAGE:  Alfredo Hawit, center, leaving court in Brooklyn. Hawit, a Honduran, could be sentenced to decades in prison. Credit Stephanie Keith/Reuters

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