By Andrew Warshaw
May 25 – Costas Takkas, close associate of disgraced ex-CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb and like Webb one of the original ‘Zurich Seven’ arrested two years ago in that infamous hotel swoop that plunged FIFA into unprecedented crisis, has changed his plea to guilty to money laundering conspiracy as his trial gets closer.
Takkas is among 42 individuals and entities charged as part of the US probe into more than $200 million in bribes and kickbacks sought by high-ranking football officials for marketing and broadcast rights to World Cup and other key games.
A British passport holder, Takkas was a resident of the Cayman Islands (from where Webb hails) where he worked as an accountant for some 20 years between the 1980s and early 2000s. He served at one point as unpaid general secretary of the Cayman Islands Football Association and was responsible for writing the local FA’s rules of association. He agreed to change his earlier plea of not guilty to one count in the indictment issued against him.
His new plea in a Brooklyn federal court came more than a year after he was extradited to the United States from Switzerland, where he had spent 10 months in detention.
Takkas was accused of receiving and transmitting millions of dollars in bribes for Webb. His guilty plea Wednesday was only to one of the charges against him. He had been charged with 10 criminal counts in all and faces up to 20 years’ imprisonment when sentenced on September 19.
His attorney, Gordon Mehler, said outside court that Takkas was the only defendant who has been allowed to plead guilty to a single charge “because he is a very minor figure in this case.”
During his court appearance, Takkas told Judge Pamela K. Chen that he “consciously avoided knowing that these companies were giving Mr. Webb money in order to influence his actions as a football official.”
He added that at Webb’s direction, he transferred money electronically through banks in Florida and the Cayman Islands between 2012 and 2015.
According to a press statement released Wednesday by US prosecutors: “Webb, Takkas and Traffic USA, one of the sports marketing companies, arranged for Traffic to secretly funnel half of Web’s US$3 million bribe through front companies and accounts controlled by Takkas.”
A portion of the bribe, prosecutors said, was paid by a second company, Media World, also sent through accounts controlled by Takkas in order to obtain the marketing rights to certain 2018 and 2022 World Cup qualifying matches – rights that were previously held by Caribbean Football Union member associations.
Webb, who was a FIFA vice president at the time of the alleged misconduct and the highest profile figure in the entire corruption probe, has pleaded guilty to seven counts of racketeering, money laundering conspiracy and wire transfer conspiracy and faces sentencing in July.
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