|FIFA panel bans three disgraced officials for life|
Wednesday, 22 November 2017
FIFA panel bans three disgraced officials for life
ZURICH: FIFA’s ethics watchdogs have banned for life three former officials who pleaded guilty in American courts to accepting bribes as part of efforts to address widespread corruption in the sport, the world football governing body said on Tuesday.
They include former FIFA audit committee member Richard Lai of Guam, who testified in federal court that the source of his bribe money was Olympic powerbroker Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah of Kuwait.
“His guilty plea related, amongst others, to schemes in which he received bribes in exchange for his support in relation to the FIFA presidential elections and to gain control and influence within the AFC [Asian Football Confederation] and FIFA,” the football body said of Lai, a former member of the FIFA audit and compliance committee, in a statement.
Sheikh Ahmad referred his own case to the ethics committees of FIFA and the International Olympic Committee in April after Lai’s guilty plea was revealed. The Kuwaiti royal also withdrew from an election to retain his seat representing Asia on the FIFA Council.
The sheikh has denied wrongdoing and continues to work on Olympic duty, including chairing an IOC panel with a $500 million budget to distribute grants, and leading the global group of national Olympic committees known as ANOC.
Two more former football federation presidents, Rafael Esquivel of Venezuela and Julio Rocha of Nicaragua, were also banned for life Tuesday. They were arrested in Zurich in May 2015 in early morning raids on luxury hotels and later extradited to the United States.
Though the life bans were announced during the trial in Brooklyn of three other FIFA-connected officials from South America, the ethics panel investigations were separate and did not use new evidence being aired daily in court.
FIFA said its ethics judges imposed “appropriate fines in relation to the amounts of the bribes that they have admitted having taken.” Esquivel was fined 1 million Swiss francs ($1 million), Lai was fined 870,000 Swiss francs ($870,000), and Rocha was fined 500,000 Swiss francs ($500,000). It is unclear if FIFA can enforce fines on people who have left the sport.
All three men had pleaded guilty in the United States to separate federal charges ranging from wire fraud to racketeering and money laundering.
The US investigation, which came to light in May 2015, uncorked the largest scandal in the history of world football.
The first trial in the case began last week in New York, where three South American former officials are accused of graft worth million of dollars.