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FIFA scandal: Former Costa Rican official pleads guilty

New York (AFP) – The former president of the Costa Rican soccer federation, Eduardo Li, pleaded guilty Friday in New York to extortion and fraud in a corruption case that has also touched dozens of former leaders of soccer’s world governing body.

This was a reversal for the 57-year-old, who had pleaded not guilty in December 2015 shortly after Swiss authorities handed him over to their American counterparts.

As president of the Costa Rican federation since 2007, he was poised to become a member of the executive committee of FIFA, the global soccer body, when the Swiss authorities arrested him in May 2015.

According to investigators, Li used his influence to help a private company obtain the marketing rights to several matches by the Costa Rican national team, and for another company to be represented on the team’s jerseys.

They said he received more than a half million dollars in exchange for his services. 

He is also accused of siphoning off FIFA funds intended for the Costa Rican federation.

Each of the charges against him — extortion, fraud and criminal conspiracy to commit a fraud — carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years, according to a statement Friday from Robert Capers, the US attorney for the eastern district of New York. 

As part of a plea deal, Li has agreed to pay a fine of $668,000.

More than a third of the 40 people implicated in the FIFA scandal have entered guilty pleas, thereby avoiding trials. 

Most of those implicated were executives either of FIFA, of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (Concacaf), or of sports marketing companies.

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