New York (AFP) – A 56-year-old Argentine banker pleaded guilty in New York on Thursday to transferring more than $25 million in bribes in the massive FIFA corruption scandal that has rocked world soccer.
“I deeply regret what I did. I am ashamed and I wish I could express in words what I feel,” Jorge Arzuaga told Federal Judge Pamela Chen in Brooklyn, speaking in slow but perfect English.
“I am deeply sorry,” said Arzuaga, dressed in a dark suit, white shirt and blue tie. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder money, a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
As a private banker at two institutions based in Switzerland, Arzuaga admitted helping a private client, Alejandro Burzaco, transfer bribes to soccer officials including the late president of the Argentine soccer federation Julio Grondona.
Burzaco, the former chairman of the board of Argentine sports marketing company Torneos y Competencias S.A., pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and other offenses in 2015 in connection with the FIFA scandal.
As part of his plea Arzuaga agreed to pay more than $1 million to the US government, the size of the bonus he received from Burzaco.
Arzuaga’s sentence was set for January 4, 2018.
The US investigation, first unveiled in May 2015, has seen federal prosecutors in New York indict around 40 football and sports marketing executives for allegedly receiving tens of millions of bribes and kickbacks.
Since then 24 people have pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in exchange for possible leniency. Three continue to plead innocent and are scheduled to go on trial on November 6.
The scandal precipitated the downfall of longtime FIFA president Sepp Blatter and his former heir apparent, Michel Platini.