Top Fifa official admits taking more than £700,000 in bribes

Richard Lai (right), and his wife Irma Lai.

A top official at football’s world governing body Fifa was involved in “multiple schemes to accept and pay bribes to soccer officials”, United States prosecutors say.

Richard Lai, 55, has admitted taking $ 950,000 (£735,000) in bribes.

He sits on Fifa’s audit and compliance committee as well as the ethics committee of the Asian Football Confederation.

Both Fifa and the AFC have provisionally suspended Lai.

The Guam Football Association boss pleaded guilty to fraud charges at a US court on Thursday.

He admitted two counts of wire fraud conspiracy, relating to accepting and paying bribes, and one count of failing to disclose foreign bank accounts. He agreed to pay more than $ 1.1m (£850,000) in forfeiture and penalties.

“The defendant abused the trust placed in him as a soccer official in order to line his own pockets, and now he will be held to account,” said Bridget Rohde, acting US district attorney.

She added: “The defendant’s breach of trust was particularly significant given his position as a member of the Fifa Audit and Compliance committee, which must play an important and independent role if corruption within Fifa is to be eliminated.”

William Sweeney, assistant director-in-charge of the FBI’s New York field office, added: “Years of this systemic culture of corruption and greed have tainted one of the world’s most popular sports.

“Kickbacks and bribes became the norm for doing business with Fifa, but not anymore.”

One of the charges related to a $ 100,000 (£77,000) bribe from disgraced former Fifa executive Mohamed Bin Hammam in return for his vote in the 2011 Fifa presidential election.

Bin Hammam later pulled out of the running after being suspended over bribery allegations, leaving then-president Sepp Blatter to stand unopposed.

About 40 football and sports marketing executives have been indicted in the US as part of a large-scale investigation into corruption in global football.

Fifa said its decision to suspend Lai, a US citizen, was “based on the guilty plea” at the court in Brooklyn.

The provisional suspension is pending a full investigation by Fifa and the AFC.

BBC Sport – Football

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