Months of relative quiet on the FIFA Corruption front and now two stories in one week. What a time to be alive.
As part of the US Department of Justice’s ongoing investigation, top FIFA official Richard Lai has pled guilty to accepting $950,000 in bribes.
The 55-year-old is the head of the Guam Football Association and is a member of several high-ranking committees, including FIFA’s audit and compliance committee and the Asian Football Confederation’s ethics committee. I can’t imagine that the irony is lost on anyone here.
Yesterday Lai pled guilty to two charges of wire fraud conspiracy and one charge of failure to disclose foreign bank accounts. He agreed to pay over $1.1 million in asset forfeiture and fines. FIFA and the AFC have also provisionally suspended Lai, pending the results of an internal investigation.
One of the transactions referenced in the case against Lai includes a $100,000 bribe from Mohamed Bin Hammam, another former FIFA executive forced out on corruption charges. Bin Hammam apparently paid Lai that money in exchange for his vote in the 2011 FIFA presidential election against Sepp Blatter. He was forced out of the race before the election was held after being suspended due to bribery allegations.
(If you’re starting to feel throbbing migraine-like pain, don’t worry, this is perfectly normal.)
Acting US district attorney Bridget Rohde says that Lai’s position in global football made his transgressions particularly heinous.
”The defendant abused the trust placed in him 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.”
William Sweeney, the assistant director of the FBI’s field office in New York, said the Lai conviction is just further evidence that FIFA’s culture of corruption is being dismantled.
Years of this systemic culture of corruption and greed have tainted one of the world’s most popular sports. Kickbacks and bribes became the norm for doing business with Fifa, but not anymore.”