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FIFAGate: Salvadoran leader pleads guilty

FIFAGate: Salvadoran leader pleads guilty

Reynaldo Vásquez, the former president of the Salvadoran Soccer Federation, pleaded guilty in the corruption scandal that rocked FIFA.

During a remote court hearing, Vasquez pleaded guilty to the count of conspiracy before Federal Judge Pamela Chen of the Eastern District Court of New York.

The Salvadoran had also been charged with money laundering and wire fraud, but those charges will be dropped following an agreement Vásquez signed with US prosecutors in exchange for Monday’s guilty plea.

Authorities in El Salvador arrested Vásquez at the end of 2015 as part of an international operation against officials of FIFA, the governing body of world football. Since the US Justice Department announced its investigation against these leaders in 2015, more than 40 of them have been formally charged with criminal charges and at least 30 have pleaded guilty.

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Vásquez’s guilty plea brings the case a little closer to an end.

The 65-year-old Salvadoran was extradited to the United States from El Salvador in January this year and pleaded not guilty to all charges that same month.

Vasquez faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, but after his dealings with the prosecution, the sentence is expected to be less. Chen set his sentence for December. During the hearing, the judge said that Vasquez agreed to pay $ 360,000 as a fine to prosecutors and also agreed to be deported after his sentence.

Vásquez headed the FESFUT (the initials of the federation) from 2009 to mid-2011.

US prosecutors accuse him, among other things, of accepting bribes from a company called Media World in exchange for granting coverage and marketing rights for World Cup qualifying matches. He is also accused of accepting money to organize friendly matches in the United States in which the Salvadoran national team would participate.

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Through a Spanish interpreter, Vásquez admitted on Monday to receiving payments from Media World and also acting as an intermediary for other FESFUT officials to receive those bribes when he was no longer part of the federation.

Part of the money Vásquez received was transferred through a US bank account.

“Are you pleading guilty because you are guilty?” Judge Chen asked him at one point.

“Yes, Your Honor,” Vasquez replied.

The Salvadoran’s guilty plea will prevent him from going to trial in the United States.

“With today’s guilty plea, Vasquez admits to participating in a decades-long criminal association to accept hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes that corrupted the sport of soccer,” said Acting US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Jacquelyn M Kasulis in a statement. “Along with other government agencies, this office is committed to eliminating fraud and corruption in international soccer and protecting the integrity of the US financial system.”

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In the case of FIFA, José María Marín, former president of the Brazilian Football Confederation, was sentenced after a 2018 trial to four years in prison for his role in the corruption scandal. The former president of CONMEBOL, Juan Ángel Napout, was also sentenced the same year to nine years in prison. AFP (HN).

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