Julio Rocha, Rafael Esquivel and Richard Lai had all pleaded guilty to bribery and corruption charges brought by the United States Department of Justice in its massive international criminal probe into FIFA.
In addition to being banned for life from all football-related activities at both national and international level, the three men must also pay what FIFA calls “appropriate” fines in relation to the amounts of the bribes that they have admitted taking.
Rocha is the former president of Nicaragua’s football association and a former FIFA Development Officer. He pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy in December of 2016. His plea was tied to receiving bribes in exchange for awarding contracts to companies for the media and marketing rights to FIFA World Cup qualifier matches.
Esquivel, the former president of the Venezuelan Football Association and a former CONMEBOL vice-president, pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, three counts of wire fraud conspiracy and three counts of money laundering conspiracy in November 2016. His guilty plea related, among others, to schemes in which he received bribes in exchange for awarding contracts to companies for the media and marketing rights to various football tournaments, including the CONMEBOL Copa América and the Copa Libertadores.
Lai is the former president of the Guam Football Association and a former member of FIFA’s Audit and Compliance Committee. He pleaded guilty last April to two counts of wire fraud and one count of willful failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts related to schemes in which he received bribes for his support in FIFA presidential elections and to gain control and influence with the Asian Football Confederation and FIFA.
Lai’s plea deal indirectly identified IOC Member in Kuwait Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah as being part of the conspiracy. Court documents appear to indicate that Lai believed the source of the money he distributed was an individual only identified as “the president of the Olympic Council of Asia”.
Ahmad, who has been the OCA president since 1991, denies any wrongdoing but did immediately resign all his duties with FIFA, where he was seeking a second term as vice president at the time. His case is being reviewed by the FIFA Ethics Committee and the IOC Ethics Commission. Ahmad has not quit any of his positions with the IOC and remains president of the Association of National Olympic Committees.
It’s been two and a half years since the U.S. Justice Department announced its probe into FIFA. So far, 24 of the 42 people and entities charged have pleaded guilty, including Jeffrey Webb, a former FIFA vice president and president of CONCACAF, the governing body for soccer in North and Central America and the Caribbean.
The only three defendants who have pleaded not guilty - former Brazil soccer federation president Jose Maria Marin, former Peru soccer federation boss Manuel Burga and Juan Angel Napout, the former president of both the Paraguay soccer federation and CONMEBOL - are currently on trial in New York Federal Court.