Rafael Callejas, former president of Honduras, center, exits federal court in the Brooklyn borough of New York, U.S., on Monday, March 28, 2016. Callejas pleaded guilty to corruption charges as part of the U.S. criminal probe into allegations of long-running bribery schemes involving international soccer organizers. (Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg)
By NAN Sports Editor
News Americas, BROOKLYN, NY, Tues. Mar. 29, 2016: The man who once served as president of the Central American nation of Honduras and of the soccer federation, (FENAFUTH), has admitted he is guilty of corruption and racketeering.
Rafael Callejas, 72, pleaded guilty in a Brooklyn Court Monday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert M. Levy to racketeering conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy in connection with receipt of bribes in exchange for awarding of contracts for the media and marketing rights to FIFA World Cup qualifier matches.
According to court filings and facts presented during the plea proceeding, Callejas negotiated and accepted bribes totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars in exchange for his agreement to exercise his influence as the president of FENAFUTH to award contracts to Media World, a Florida sports marketing company, for the media and marketing rights to the Honduran national soccer team’s home World Cup qualifier matches for the 2014, 2018 and 2022 editions of the World Cup.
Over a period of years, Media World transmitted these bribes from its U.S. bank accounts, through an intermediary, to the foreign bank accounts of the defendant and a co-conspirator.
Callejas, who served as the President of the Republic of Honduras from 1990 to 1994, also agreed to forfeit $650,000.
“I knew it was wrong for me to ask for and to accept such undisclosed payments,” he said in Court Monday.
Callejas faces a maximum sentence of 20 years for each count when he is sentenced on August 5th.
The guilty plea by Callejas is part of an investigation into corruption in FIFA and international soccer that is being led by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, the FBI’s New York Field Office, and the IRS-CI Los Angeles Field Office.
The US government’s investigation is ongoing. In total, about 20 soccer officials have been indicted on charges related to the US investigation of corruption in the sport. They include former FIFA vice President and Trinidad & Tobago national security minister, Jack Warner.