KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- The FIFAGate case has sparked back to life, five years after the headline-grabbing police raid on a Zurich hotel, when Alfredo Hawit was handed a time-served sentence plus deportation by a New York court.
The Honduran was a vice-president of world governing body FIFA and president of the central and north confederation CONCACAF when he was detained in Zurich on a United States extradition warrant in December 2015. The now-68-year-old had succeeded to his roles after the earlier arrest, also in Zurich, of Jeff Webb in May 2015.
In April 2016 Hawit, after accepting extradition, pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud conspiracy and one count each of racketeering conspiracy and conspiracy to obstruct justice. Each count had carried a possible sentence of up to 20 years.
The charges involved the acceptance of $1.66m in bribes from media rights awards for World Cup and other CONCACAF matches.
Hawit admitted helping arrange marketing rights for companies in Florida and Argentina in exchange for cash paid into bank accounts administered by him and his family in Panama and Honduras.
Hawit was banned for life by FIFA on December 19, 2016.
Judge Pamela Chen, delivering her sentence via video, deemed Hawit to have served an appropriate restriction of liberty. Chen deferred a ruling on restitution for 90 days but ordered $950,000 forfeiture will be $950,000 to be paid by instalments. Eight further counts were dismissed.
Hawit was contrition personified in a statement to court. He said: “I do take responsibility and I have changed considerably. I want to ask forgiveness for all those things I did back then.
“There are no words to express how sorry I am. I also regret all the harm I did to soccer, which is the sport that I love. From the day of my arrest in Zurich and the time that I spent in jail and four and a half years so far, I’ve suffered. I’ve felt humiliated and shamed by my behaviour and I’m paying the price.”
Chen said Hawit tried to conceal bribes and even used the name of his wife, a superior court judge in Honduras, in an attempted cover-up.
She added: “The government’s investigation and prosecution in this case has rightfully served as a wake-up call to the entire professional soccer world and to all of its associations that business cannot be conducted in this manner.
“While it is clear that Mr Hawit faltered badly by agreeing for a number of years to take bribes of a significant amount on multiple occasions and covering that up through elaborate schemes, he did recover after being caught and has since tried to make amends.”
Hawit will be deported back to Honduras when pandemic travel restrictions permit.
The $200m bribery scandal led to the arrests of dozens of football executives — many of them Latin American — as well as the downfall of FIFA president Sepp Blatter. More than 40 individuals and companies were charged over a years-long conspiracy to rip off millions of dollars from World Cup TV contracts and regional sponsorship deals.
Six of those originally charged have since died and more than 20 still await sentencing.
Former Brazilian football bosses Ricardo Teixeira and Marco Polo del Nero are beyond extradition in Rio de Janeiro while Jack Warner, once highly-influential president of CONCACAF, is resisting extradition from Trinidad & Tobago.