Guilty plea possible from El Salvador ex-soccer chief in FIFA corruption probe - Metro US

Guilty plea possible from El Salvador ex-soccer chief in FIFA corruption probe

FILE PHOTO: Former president of El Salvador's soccer federation Reynaldo Vazquez is presented to the media after his arrest in San Salvador, El Salvador

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The former president of El Salvador’s soccer federation may enter a guilty plea next Monday over his alleged role in a sprawling corruption probe surrounding FIFA and other soccer governing bodies, court records show.

A change-of-plea hearing has been scheduled in the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn for Reynaldo Vasquez, the former president of the Federacion Salvadorena de Futbol (FESFUT), or the Salvadoran Football Federation.

Vasquez, who led FESFUT in 2009 and 2010, had in January pleaded not guilty to charges including racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering.

U.S. prosecutors have said Vasquez accepted bribes from a company called Media World, in exchange for helping arrange media rights to qualifier matches for the 2014 World Cup.

He was also accused of involvement in a bribery scheme to arrange friendly matches involving the men’s national soccer teams of El Salvador, Costa Rica and Guatemala.

A lawyer for Vasquez did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Vasquez’s plea was not discussed at a Tuesday conference concerning several defendants before U.S. District Judge Pamela Chen in Brooklyn.

Vasquez was arrested in December 2015 after first being charged. He was extradited in January from El Salvador, where he had been serving an eight-year sentence for fraud.

FIFA banned Vasquez for life and fined him 500,000 Swiss francs in October 2019 after an internal ethics committee found him guilty of bribery.

Since the U.S. Department of Justice unveiled the corruption probe in 2015, more than 40 defendants have been criminally charged, and at least 30 have pleaded guilty.

Two defendants, former Brazilian soccer chief Jose Maria Marin and former CONMEBOL head Juan Angel Napout of Paraguay, were convicted at trial in 2017.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Grant McCool)

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