NEW YORK: Eduardo Li, one of the ‘Zurich Seven’ has been sentenced to two years of conditional freedom by the Eastern District Court in New York for his role in the FIFAGate corruption scandal writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
The former president of the Costa Rican football federation (FEDEFUTBOL) had served nine months in prison while in Swizterland after his arrest on the eve of FIFA Congress in May 2015 and then after his extradition to the United States.
Li’s lawyer, Roger Guevara, said: “Eduardo was sentenced to what is known here as time served . It is the time that he was already in prison in Switzerland and here in Brooklyn, New York. That is what is called supervised freedom. He can return to Costa Rica at any time. Now he has to report to the authorities, but he can be released.”
The judgment was handed down by Judge Pamela Chen, who has handled the ‘live’ aspects of the FIFAGate case which involved corruption, fraud and conspiracy by more than 40 individuals in senior positions in football in the Americas.
Li, who was 60 on Sunday, was arrested on May 27, 2015, at the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich. He was then a new member of the then executive committee of the world football federation.
In December 2015 Li was extradited to the US and was detained in Brooklyn, New York, until March 2016 before being freed under house arrest and then under conditional release in Florida. In the meantime he was banned from football for life by the FIFA ethics committee.
Li had pleaded guilty to three of 14 charges: electronic fraud, conspiracy to commit electronic fraud and conspiracy to commit organized crime.
He had negotiated for himself a $500,000 bribe (of which he received $300,000) to grant to the Miami-based Traffic USA agency the broadcast rights to Costa Rica’s home qualifying matches for the 2022 World Cup.
He also admitted arranging for himself another bribe of $500,000 (of which he received $ 230,000 through intermediaries in Panama) for the Costa Rican national team to the kit of an unnamed US sportswear brand. Last February a Panamanian company pleaded guilty in the US to bribing Li over the sportswear deal.
Li was also accused of embezzled FIFA of $90,000 through false invoices for the organization of the 2014 U-17 Women’s World Cup, which took place in Costa Rica.
A number of other figures from the FIFAGate case have yet to be sentenced including, most notably, the former FIFA vice-president Jeff Webb who had also been head of the central and north American confederation.