FIFA official suspended after accepting bribes

A top FIFA official has been suspended after pleading guilty to accepting bribes in return for asserting influence in football.

Richard Lai was involved in “multiple schemes to accept and pay bribes to soccer officials”, say United States prosecutors.

The FIFA official pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy charges before US District Judge Pamela Chen in Brooklyn.

Prosecutors say he had accepted close to $1m.

After admitting accepting $950,000 (£735,000) in bribes, Lai was handed a provisional 90-day ban from football.

The findings concern two counts of wire fraud conspiracy.

These relate to accepting and paying bribes with another count of failing to disclose foreign bank accounts.

One of the charges related to a $100,000 (£77,000) bribe from former FIFA executive Mohamed Bin Hammam.

This was reportedly in return for his vote in the 2011 FIFA presidential election.

Bin Hammam later pulled out of the running following suspension over bribery allegations, leaving then-president Sepp Blatter to stand unopposed.

The 55-year-old has reportedly agreed to pay more than $1.1m (£850,000) in forfeiture and penalties.

Lai, who has been the Guam Football Association boss since 2001, sits on FIFA’s Audit and Compliance committee.

He is one of those responsible for checking FIFA’s financial accounting.

But his recent guilty plea only highlights the continued problems within the hierarchy of football’s main governing body.

Lai, who is an American citizen, is also a member of the Asian Football Confederation ethics committee.

Acting US district attorney, Bridget Rohde, said: “The defendant abused the trust placed in him in order to line his own pockets.

“The defendant’s breach of trust was particularly significant given his position as a member of the FIFA Audit and Compliance committee.

“[The committee] must play an important and independent role if corruption within FIFA is to be eliminated”.

The provisional suspension handed to Lai is pending a full investigation by FIFA and the AFC.

TNT Sport

Photo Credit: MCaviglia 

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