January 15 – Two months after being banned for life, one of the highest profile figures in the FIFAGate corruption scandal, former Nicaragua Football Federation chief Julio Rocha has died after battling with cancer.
The 67-year-old, who ran his federation from 1987-2013, was scheduled to be sentenced in the Brooklyn Federal Court on February 2. He was under house arrest in the US.
Rocha, one of the most powerful figures in his region, had been charged with accepting more than $150,000 in bribes linked to the sale of marketing rights to World Cup qualifying games.
Nicaraguyan federation spokesman Moises Avalos said family members had petitioned for him to be able to return from the US to die in his home country “but unfortunately nothing could be done.”
In 2013, Rocha became development director for CONCACAF’s Spanish-speaking countries and it was in that capacity he was dramatically detained in May 2015, along with other senior officials, during the dawn raids in Switzerland on the eve of the FIFA Congress. He was subsequently extradited to the United States.
Rocha, who had changed his plea to guilty, was to be sentenced on charges of racketeering and wire fraud conspiracy which carry a maximum of 20 years in prison on each count.
He is the second top official caught up in football’s worst ever corruption scandal to die before being sentenced in the US, the other being former CONCACAF general secretary Chuck Blazer.
In Nicaragua Rocha will be remembered as a driving force behind the construction of country’s national stadium as well as establishing an academy for local footballing talent.
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