FIFA bans 3 football officials for life for taking bribes

FIFA said its ethics judges imposed “appropriate fines in relation to the amounts of the bribes that they have admitted having taken,” referring to the three officials who were banned for life. (Reuters)
Updated 21 November 2017
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FIFA bans 3 football officials for life for taking bribes

GENEVA: Three football officials who pleaded guilty in American courts to accepting bribes were banned for life by the FIFA ethics committee 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, among 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 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.
Lai, who is an American citizen, previously agreed to pay “more than $1.1 million in forfeiture and penalties,” the US Department of Justice said in April.
In court, Lai pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy charges related to taking about $1 million in bribes, including at least $850,000 from Kuwaiti officials.
Esquivel agreed to forfeit $16 million a year ago when he pleaded guilty to charges of racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy. His offenses were linked to the awarding of contracts for media and marketing rights to South American football competitions.
However, Esquivel’s name was cited Monday in Brooklyn during testimony in the ongoing trial of former football executives from Brazil, Paraguay and Peru, who deny corruption charges.
One witness who formerly worked for a marketing agency in Argentina said he kept a ledger of payments to officials, including a $750,000 payment to Esquivel for “Q2022.” Prosecutors did not specify if the payment was linked to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
FIFA has repeatedly declined to comment on allegations and evidence detailed in the current federal court case.
Rocha was a FIFA staffer working for its development department when he was arrested in 2015. He agreed to forfeit nearly $300,000 after admitting to racketeering conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy charges last December.
All three banned officials are awaiting sentencing in Brooklyn.


River Plate told to take Al-Ain challenge seriously in FIFA Club World Cup last-four clash

Updated 17 December 2018
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River Plate told to take Al-Ain challenge seriously in FIFA Club World Cup last-four clash

  • Marcelo Gallardo warns side UAE champions will provide a tough challenge.
  • Winners likely to face Real Madrid to have to overcome Kashima Antlers in their semifinal.

LONDON: River Plate go into today’s FIFA Club World Cup as overwhelming favorites but have been warned that if they take victory for granted against Al-Ain they could face an embarrassing early exit from the UAE.
From the start of the tournament it has been widely expected that the final would be between the Copa Libertadores winners and the defending champions, Real Madrid. Both sides enter the competition at the semifinal stage — River this evening at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium, and Real at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi. But the message from River boss Marcelo Gallardo to his players is that they cannot take it easy against the UAE champions.
“We had the chance to watch both Al-Ain matches, good to see this team in action, I think it is going to be a tough match for us,” the Argentine coach said.
“They have shown they deserve to be in the semifinal, They are dangerous when they attack, we have to play with a high level of concentration.”
Such is the nature of the tournament — the bigger teams get byes to the last-four stage — that there is always an inbuilt advantage for the likes of Real and River. Al-Ain’s journey has been more arduous and tiring. “The Boss” were 3-0 down before half-time against Team Wellington in the opener last week, before storming back to make it 3-3 and winning the subsequent penalty shootout 4-3. They then shocked the African Champions League champions Esperance de Tunis 3-0 on Saturday.
But Gallardo, above, is not expecting any advantage for his side, despite the fact they should have the fresher legs.
“I don’t know the fact that Al-Ain have played 210 mins is an advantage for us,” he said. “They will have a lot of good feelings as the host team qualifying for the semifinal. They have performed well to get this far.”
Caio is the Al-Ain danger man River will have to keep an eye on. The Brazilian would doubtless love nothing more than to help his UAE side topple the Argentine giants. Gallardo, however, claimed Al-Ain have many threats and his side would not fall into the trap of concentrating too much on one man.
“Caio is one of the top players in Al-Ain but we cannot think only of him, they have many other good players. He is a very important player for them,” he said.
If there is a worry it is that River might still be tired from the journey and mentally sapped after their controversial Copa Libertadores win against arch-rivals Boca Juniors. The second leg of that clash had to be called off due to fan violence which saw the Boca coach attacked. Ultimately the match was replayed at Real’s Bernabeu stadium in Madrid and a 3-1 win for River saw them, and not their Buenos Aires neighbors, make the trip to the UAE.
“Our aim is to play in the final, it would be important for us to play in the final and win it but first we have to get past (Al-Ain),” Gallardo said. “Our Copa win will last forever, it is always there. But knowing the players as I do, the players will not stop — they want to carry on winning.
“The difficult thing was to change our approach quickly, time difference, finding it difficult to sleep especially when you are on a high. But I told them, let’s think about what’s coming as it’s a privilege. The message was we have to adapt quickly to a new country.”