Tegucigalpa (AFP) – Honduran ex-president Rafael Callejas, who pleaded guilty in the United States for his part in the sweeping FIFAgate football corruption scandal, died Saturday aged 76, his family said.
Callejas passed away of a heart attack in a hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, his family said.
“We are deeply saddened to announce that our beloved husband, father and grandfather has flown into the arms of the Lord,” his wife Norma Gaborit de Callejas said in a statement.
Callejas was born on November 14, 1943 in Tegucigalpa.
A former student of the University of Mississippi in the United States, he served as president of Honduras from 1990 to 1994.
As president, he implemented a neo-liberal economic policy, privatizing many public services.
He was also head of the country’s football federation from 2002 to 2015, and is also a former member of FIFA’s Television and Marketing Committee.
As such he became one of the 40 officials implicated in the vast corruption scandal known as FIFAgate which came to shake the football world.
Callejas was accused of receiving bribes in exchange for awarding Florida-based Media World the television broadcasting and commercial rights to Honduras’ qualifying matches for the 2014, 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
He pleaded guilty in a US court.
But Callejas also suffered from leukemia and his sentencing was postponed many times due to his health problems.
He had been due to appear in court again on May 5.
FIFAgate exploded in May 2015 with the arrest in Zurich of seven senior officials of the powerful international federation, at the request of the US courts, which accused them of having received some $150 million in bribes and kickbacks since the 1990s.
Like other former Latin American football officials, Callejas was suspended for life from all football-related activities in 2016.
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