New York (AFP) – A US judge sentenced a British-Greek accountant to jail for 15 months on Tuesday, condemning his “breathtaking” fraud in helping to launder $3 million in bribes in the FIFA corruption scandal.
Costas Takkas, former general secretary of the Cayman Islands Football Federation, was the second defendant sentenced in connection with what has been the largest corruption scandal in the history of soccer.
The 61-year-old has already served 10 months in custody in Switzerland after his arrest in May 2015 and prior to his extradition to the United States, meaning that he could be released within just a few months.
Chen also ordered him to pay $3 million restitution shared with former FIFA vice president Jeffrey Webb, who pleaded guilty to a raft of offenses in November 2015.
“It was a massive fraud,” Judge Pamela Chen told a federal court in New York. “This is a serious crime,” she added. Takkas, she said, “assisted in laundering $3 million in bribes, a breathtaking amount of fraud.”
The Cypriot-born ex-official, who holds both Greek and British nationalities, admitted Tuesday that he “should have known better.”
“I feel big remorse. It’s not in my nature to cause anybody harm. I love the game of football and I hope the sport learns from this case,” he said.
The FIFA scandal, first unveiled in May 2015, has seen US prosecutors indict 42 football and sports marketing executives with allegedly receiving tens of millions of bribes and kickbacks.
Takkas was one of six FIFA officials first arrested in Zurich at the request of US authorities. He was extradited to New York in March 2016.
In May, he pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering conspiracy. His jail term will begin Tuesday, and he will be deported to the Cayman Islands upon release.
Lawyers sparred over the severity of his punishment. The defense called his client “a little bit of Peter Pan’ comparing Takkas to the fictional boy who never grew up, and describing him as “a kind, sweet, gentle, honorable man.”
“He didn’t do this because he wanted to feed starved orphans,” hit back prosecutor Paul Tuchmann.
Webb, who awaits sentencing confined to house arrest in the US state of Georgia, accepted a $3 million bribe for granting two sports marketing companies the rights to 2018 and 2022 World Cup qualifier matches played by Caribbean teams.
More than half the money was funnelled through front companies and accounts controlled by Takkas, which he then distributed at Webb’s direction.
The US corruption investigation precipitated the downfall of longtime FIFA president Sepp Blatter and his former heir apparent, Michel Platini.
Just three Latin American defendants who have continued to plead not guilty are due to go on trial in a US federal court in Brooklyn on November 6.
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