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FIFA scandal: Asia official admits taking bribes

While Lai didn't name Hammam in court, he said he accepted $100,000

Patricia Hurtado & Tariq Panja | Bloomberg 

FIFA scandal: Asia official admits taking bribes

The first Asian soccer official to be convicted in the corruption scandal, a member of a committee that oversaw ethics compliance, told a US judge he accepted about $1 million in bribes, including $100,000 from the former president of the

Football Association President Richard Lai, a US citizen who’s also on the Asian confederation’s executive board, implicated that group’s ex-president, Mohamed Bin Hammam, and two other Asian soccer officials during his guilty plea Thursday, according to records in federal court in Brooklyn,

Lai said rival factions within the sport’s governance bodies were trying to win his influence in the election for president and that he accepted illegal payments from both sides. Suspended Friday by the football organisation’s ethics committee, Lai could face decades in prison after admitting to two counts of wire fraud.

While Lai didn’t name Hammam in court, he said he accepted $100,000 “from the head of Asian Football Conference at the time,” whom he said was later “banned for life from football”. Hammam, a Qatari, was president of the conference from 2002 until he resigned in 2011 and was subsequently banned for life.

Lai said the AFC president approached him in January 2011 with an offer to pay him as a consultant for a construction business while also soliciting his support in a run for the presidency. Lai said he never did any work for the money, which was wired from an account in Qatar.

Lai said he received more than $850,000 in bribes from November 2009 to late 2014 to advance the interests of an opposing faction in Asian football and identify with influence in who might be open to receiving bribes. He traced traced that relationship to a conference in Malaysia where he said the president of the Kuwait Football Association and an intermediary approached him seeking help to limit the influence of the AFC president.

In a 21-page document outlining the case and plea deal, descriptions of one of the co-conspirators matches Kuwait’s Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahd Al Sabah, a sports powerbroker who sits on FIFA’s executive board. He’s also an influential member of the Olympic Committee and backed that organisation’s president towards election victory 2013.

“Sheikh Ahmad is very surprised by such allegations and strongly denies any wrongdoing,” according to a statement sent by the Olympic Council of Asia, an umbrella body that he also leads. “He will vigorously defend his integrity and reputation and that of any organisation that he represents in any relevant legal review."

Lai said he profited from working both sides, telling the judge he “ensured” that a “thorough” audit of Asian soccer would reveal a misuse of funds resulting in the AFC president’s ban from the sport.

“A high-ranking officer met with me and thanked me for my work on the audit,” Lai told the judge, according to the transcript. “That officer then rewarded me for those efforts by having me appointed to be the audit and compliance committee.”

Lai said his efforts helped the opposing faction’s candidate eventually winning of the presidency of the Asian federation and the Kuwait official get elected to the executive committee.

“The defendant abused the trust placed in him as a soccer official in order to line his own pockets,” acting U.S. Attorney Bridget Rohde in said in a statement. “The defendant’s breach of trust was particularly significant given his position as a member of the Audit and Compliance committee, which must play an important and independent role if corruption within is to be eliminated.”

Lai’s lawyer didn’t immediately respond Friday to an email seeking comment on the plea. Hammam couldn’t be immediately located for comment and the U.S. attorney’s office was unable to identify his lawyer.

The sprawling US case against officials sent shockwaves through global soccer, unseating leaders including Sepp Blatter, who was replaced last year by Gianni Infantino. 

Bloomberg

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FIFA scandal: Asia official admits taking bribes

While Lai didn't name Hammam in court, he said he accepted $100,000

While Lai didn't name Hammam in court, he said he accepted $100,000
The first Asian soccer official to be convicted in the corruption scandal, a member of a committee that oversaw ethics compliance, told a US judge he accepted about $1 million in bribes, including $100,000 from the former president of the

Football Association President Richard Lai, a US citizen who’s also on the Asian confederation’s executive board, implicated that group’s ex-president, Mohamed Bin Hammam, and two other Asian soccer officials during his guilty plea Thursday, according to records in federal court in Brooklyn,

Lai said rival factions within the sport’s governance bodies were trying to win his influence in the election for president and that he accepted illegal payments from both sides. Suspended Friday by the football organisation’s ethics committee, Lai could face decades in prison after admitting to two counts of wire fraud.

While Lai didn’t name Hammam in court, he said he accepted $100,000 “from the head of Asian Football Conference at the time,” whom he said was later “banned for life from football”. Hammam, a Qatari, was president of the conference from 2002 until he resigned in 2011 and was subsequently banned for life.

Lai said the AFC president approached him in January 2011 with an offer to pay him as a consultant for a construction business while also soliciting his support in a run for the presidency. Lai said he never did any work for the money, which was wired from an account in Qatar.

Lai said he received more than $850,000 in bribes from November 2009 to late 2014 to advance the interests of an opposing faction in Asian football and identify with influence in who might be open to receiving bribes. He traced traced that relationship to a conference in Malaysia where he said the president of the Kuwait Football Association and an intermediary approached him seeking help to limit the influence of the AFC president.

In a 21-page document outlining the case and plea deal, descriptions of one of the co-conspirators matches Kuwait’s Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahd Al Sabah, a sports powerbroker who sits on FIFA’s executive board. He’s also an influential member of the Olympic Committee and backed that organisation’s president towards election victory 2013.

“Sheikh Ahmad is very surprised by such allegations and strongly denies any wrongdoing,” according to a statement sent by the Olympic Council of Asia, an umbrella body that he also leads. “He will vigorously defend his integrity and reputation and that of any organisation that he represents in any relevant legal review."

Lai said he profited from working both sides, telling the judge he “ensured” that a “thorough” audit of Asian soccer would reveal a misuse of funds resulting in the AFC president’s ban from the sport.

“A high-ranking officer met with me and thanked me for my work on the audit,” Lai told the judge, according to the transcript. “That officer then rewarded me for those efforts by having me appointed to be the audit and compliance committee.”

Lai said his efforts helped the opposing faction’s candidate eventually winning of the presidency of the Asian federation and the Kuwait official get elected to the executive committee.

“The defendant abused the trust placed in him as a soccer official in order to line his own pockets,” acting U.S. Attorney Bridget Rohde in said in a statement. “The defendant’s breach of trust was particularly significant given his position as a member of the Audit and Compliance committee, which must play an important and independent role if corruption within is to be eliminated.”

Lai’s lawyer didn’t immediately respond Friday to an email seeking comment on the plea. Hammam couldn’t be immediately located for comment and the U.S. attorney’s office was unable to identify his lawyer.

The sprawling US case against officials sent shockwaves through global soccer, unseating leaders including Sepp Blatter, who was replaced last year by Gianni Infantino. 

Bloomberg

image
Business Standard
177 22

FIFA scandal: Asia official admits taking bribes

While Lai didn't name Hammam in court, he said he accepted $100,000

The first Asian soccer official to be convicted in the corruption scandal, a member of a committee that oversaw ethics compliance, told a US judge he accepted about $1 million in bribes, including $100,000 from the former president of the

Football Association President Richard Lai, a US citizen who’s also on the Asian confederation’s executive board, implicated that group’s ex-president, Mohamed Bin Hammam, and two other Asian soccer officials during his guilty plea Thursday, according to records in federal court in Brooklyn,

Lai said rival factions within the sport’s governance bodies were trying to win his influence in the election for president and that he accepted illegal payments from both sides. Suspended Friday by the football organisation’s ethics committee, Lai could face decades in prison after admitting to two counts of wire fraud.

While Lai didn’t name Hammam in court, he said he accepted $100,000 “from the head of Asian Football Conference at the time,” whom he said was later “banned for life from football”. Hammam, a Qatari, was president of the conference from 2002 until he resigned in 2011 and was subsequently banned for life.

Lai said the AFC president approached him in January 2011 with an offer to pay him as a consultant for a construction business while also soliciting his support in a run for the presidency. Lai said he never did any work for the money, which was wired from an account in Qatar.

Lai said he received more than $850,000 in bribes from November 2009 to late 2014 to advance the interests of an opposing faction in Asian football and identify with influence in who might be open to receiving bribes. He traced traced that relationship to a conference in Malaysia where he said the president of the Kuwait Football Association and an intermediary approached him seeking help to limit the influence of the AFC president.

In a 21-page document outlining the case and plea deal, descriptions of one of the co-conspirators matches Kuwait’s Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahd Al Sabah, a sports powerbroker who sits on FIFA’s executive board. He’s also an influential member of the Olympic Committee and backed that organisation’s president towards election victory 2013.

“Sheikh Ahmad is very surprised by such allegations and strongly denies any wrongdoing,” according to a statement sent by the Olympic Council of Asia, an umbrella body that he also leads. “He will vigorously defend his integrity and reputation and that of any organisation that he represents in any relevant legal review."

Lai said he profited from working both sides, telling the judge he “ensured” that a “thorough” audit of Asian soccer would reveal a misuse of funds resulting in the AFC president’s ban from the sport.

“A high-ranking officer met with me and thanked me for my work on the audit,” Lai told the judge, according to the transcript. “That officer then rewarded me for those efforts by having me appointed to be the audit and compliance committee.”

Lai said his efforts helped the opposing faction’s candidate eventually winning of the presidency of the Asian federation and the Kuwait official get elected to the executive committee.

“The defendant abused the trust placed in him as a soccer official in order to line his own pockets,” acting U.S. Attorney Bridget Rohde in said in a statement. “The defendant’s breach of trust was particularly significant given his position as a member of the Audit and Compliance committee, which must play an important and independent role if corruption within is to be eliminated.”

Lai’s lawyer didn’t immediately respond Friday to an email seeking comment on the plea. Hammam couldn’t be immediately located for comment and the U.S. attorney’s office was unable to identify his lawyer.

The sprawling US case against officials sent shockwaves through global soccer, unseating leaders including Sepp Blatter, who was replaced last year by Gianni Infantino. 

Bloomberg

image
Business Standard
177 22