FIFAgate: El Salvador’s Vasquez pleads guilty, forfeits $360k and faces 3+ years in jail

August 24 – The former president of El Salvador’s FA (FESFUT) has changed his plea to guilty over his alleged role in the FIFAgate corruption scandal.

Reynaldo Vasquez (pictured) entered his plea through a translator before US District Judge Pamela Chen in Brooklyn.

Vasquez was extradited to the US at the end of January and at the time remotely pleaded not guilty to the racketeering conspiracy charges that carry a maximum penalty of 20 years, and was ordered to be held without bail.

In his latest plea on Monday, he said that in 2012 he and other officials received approximately $350,000 in bribes from Miami-based Media World to induce FESFUT to arrange media and marketing rights for 2018 World Cup qualifiers.

He said some of it was forwarded to a co-conspirator at Media World, describing himself as a “conduit”.

Vasquez also admitted to being part of a scheme, including an alleged $10,000 bribe, to arrange friendly matches involving El Salvador’s men’s national soccer team.

Vasquez led the normalisation committee that presided over football in El Salvador between 2008 and 2010. In October 2019, FIFA banned him for life, finding him guilty of violating the organisation’s Code of Ethics and handing him a €475,000 fine.

Vasquez was originally arrested in December 2015 after first being charged. When he was extradited he had been serving an eight-year sentence for fraud in his own country.

“My participation in the bribery was wrong,” Vasquez said in his latest submission. “I have come to understand that the way things were done for those transfers was indeed incorrect.”

Prosecutors said Vasquez could face 33 to 41 months in prison under recommended federal guidelines, though Chen said deportation “would appear a certainty at this point.”

Vasquez also agreed to forfeit $360,000 and multiple bank accounts.

“With today’s guilty plea, Vasquez admits to engaging in a decades-long racketeering conspiracy to accept hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and kickbacks that corrupted the game of soccer,” said Acting United States Attorney Kasulis.  “Together with our law enforcement partners, this Office is committed to rooting out fraud and corruption in international soccer and to protecting the integrity of the US financial system.”

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Michael Driscoll added: “From the beginning of this intense and sprawling investigation, our goal has been to root out corrupt officials who thought no one noticed their illegal activities,”

“Mr. Vasquez didn’t achieve his dream of wealth and power, and now he faces the possibility of many years in federal prison. Today’s plea should demonstrate to others who attempt to corrupt international soccer – we play to win.”

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