FIFA official admits taking bribes in U.S. federal investigation

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Friday April 28th, 2017

A member of the FIFA Audit and Compliance Committee was suspended by the Asian Football Confederation after admitting he took $1 million in bribes for election votes.

Richard Lai of Guam plead guilty in a Brooklyn, New York federal court on Thursday and was provisionally banned for 90 days by the Asian Football Confederation for his actions, FIFA announced.

He admitted to two counts of wire fraud conspiracy in connection and is banned from all football activities at both national and international level.

"The defendant's breach of trust was particularly significant given his position as a member of the FIFA Audit and Compliance committee, which must play an important and independent role if corruption within FIFA is to be eliminated, "Bridget M. Rohde, an Acting U.S. Attorney, said.

Lai is the latest person caught up in the United States investigation, in which the United States Justice Department indicted and charged 14 defendants in 2015 with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies, accusing the men of decades of "rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted" corruption by former and current FIFA officials.

Swiss officials have also said there as a many as 53 possible money-laundering incidents and more than 100 incidents of “suspicious activity” concerning the bidding process of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Those bids went to Russia and Qatar, respectively.

French prosecutors are also now looking into the World Cup bidding process as well and have questioned former FIFA president Sepp Blatter in the case. Blatter has already been banned for six years for making a "disloyal payment" to former UEFA president Michel Platini.

Lai is accused of receiving more than $850,000 in bribes over a five-year period from Asian soccer officials in exchange for using his influence as a soccer official. He also got another $100,000 in bribes from an Asian Football Confederation official who was running for the FIFA presidency.

- Scooby Axson

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