By Andrew Warshaw
April 12 – Former FIFA vice president and interim CONCACAF president Alfredo Hawit has pleaded guilty to four conspiracy counts as part of the sweeping US investigation into football bribery in the Americas.
The once-powerful Honduran admitted the charges in a Brooklyn federal court on Monday, one of 42 individuals and entities charged as part of the investigation into more than $200 million in bribes and kickbacks received by a string of officials for marketing and broadcast rights to various tournaments and matches over more than 20 years.
Hawit, who at first pleaded not guilty almost immediately after being extradited from Switzerland three months ago, pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, two counts of wire fraud conspiracy and conspiracy to obstruct justice. He also agreed to forfeit $950,000 as part of his plea agreement.
Speaking in Spanish, he admitted in court to having received hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from two sports marketing companies. “I knew it was wrong for me to accept such undisclosed payments,” he said through a translator.
To date, 15 people and two sports marketing companies have pleaded guilty in the US case. Prosecutors in a court filing on March 28 said they were in plea negotiations with multiple defendants.
Hawit, who also led the Honduras football federation FENAFUTH was arrested in Zurich on December 3 along with then CONMEBOL chief Juan Angel Napout as the US Department of Justice unveiled a second swathe of charges, this time against 16 people.
In court, Hawit said while serving as FENAFUTH’s general secretary, he received “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in bribes from Miami-based Media World for the rights to 2014, 2018, and 2022 World Cup qualifiers. It is also alleged that executives of Argentina’s Full Play Group SA agreed to pay Hawit $250,000 in bribes in a failed bid from 2011 to 2012 to secure CONCACAF marketing rights.
Hawit, who also served as interim president of CONCACAF, from June until his December 3 arrest, is free on bail and next appears in court in October. Last month Rafael Callejas, a former president of Honduras and member of FIFA’s television and marketing committee, also pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy. Callejas similarly admitted accepting bribes in exchange for awarding marketing rights to World Cup tournament matches in 2014, 2018 and 2022.
Hawit, who faces a lengthy jail term, revealed that, after the original indictment in the case was opened in May 2015, he advised a co-conspirator to create sham contracts “to mask the true nature of the bribe money” and to deceive law enforcement officials about the payments.
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