Corruption: Richard Lai, ex-FIFA official pleads guilty

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A Former FIFA official, Richard Lai from Guam has pleaded guilty to charges of corruption in a New York court, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

Lai, a former member of the audit and compliance committee at the world football governing body, admitted two counts of “wire fraud conspiracy in connection with his participation in multiple schemes to accept and pay bribes to soccer officials,” according to the attorney’s office.

The 55-year-old U.S. citizen Lai, who is president of the Guam Football Association, accepted a 100,000-dollar bribe to vote for an official from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in 2011 and between 2009-2014 collected more than 850,000 dollars of bribes for activities within the Asian region.

As part of the plea, Lai has agreed to pay $1.1 million, prosecutors said.

“Today’s plea marks another important step in our ongoing effort to root out corruption in international soccer,” acting US attorney Bridget Rohde said.

“The defendant abused the trust placed in him as a soccer official in order to line his own pockets, and now he will be held to account.

“The defendant’s breach of trust was particularly significant given his position as a member of the FIFA audit and compliance committee, which must play an important and independent role if corruption within FIFA is to be eliminated.”

The charges against Lai stem from a global scandal that has engulfed FIFA since 2015, when numerous soccer officials were indicted in the United States on corruption charges that included handing out lucrative marketing and broadcasting rights in exchange for bribes. Several have already pleaded guilty.

Investigations into FIFA corruption by US and Swiss authorities are ongoing.