Last FIFA suspect pleads not guilty in US

New York (AFP) – Ex-FIFA official Julio Rocha pleaded not guilty in New York to corruption allegations Wednesday, the last suspect extradited from Switzerland in connection with the massive scandal rocking world soccer.

The former president of the Nicaraguan Football Federation entered his plea to a raft of corruption offenses before a judge in Brooklyn shortly after he arrived in the United States from Zurich.

He appeared in court dressed in a blue jacket and dark trousers, and flanked by three lawyers. The former FIFA development officer, once based in Panama, is charged with wire fraud, money laundering and various conspiracy counts.

Rocha was the last FIFA suspect flown from Switzerland, a year after he was arrested at a luxury hotel by Swiss police acting on a US warrant following an enormous federal investigation into corruption.

Six others arrested in May 2015 and two suspects detained in December have all since been extradited to the US or their home countries.

Rocha had accepted extradition to Nicaragua, where he also faces charges, but fought bitterly against being sent to the United States, losing two appeals.

US prosecutors accuse him of taking bribes in exchange for the sale of sports marketing rights for World Cup qualifiers when he led the Nicaraguan federation.

The United States has accused 40 officials and marketing executives of soliciting and receiving tens of millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks in a case that has sparked an unprecedented crisis at FIFA.

More than a third of them, 15 people, have pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with US prosecutors in exchange for a possible reduction in sentence.

The judge overseeing the sweeping scandal has indicated that he may set a trial date for the other defendants after June 30, when prosecutors are scheduled to share the bulk of evidence being collated in the massive investigation.

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