FIFA Audit Official Admits Bribery in US Federal Probe

first_imgMACOLIN, Switzerland (AP) — The sprawling American investigation of bribery and corruption in international soccer has reached into Asia and claimed the first guilty plea from a senior official in the new FIFA leadership.A member of FIFA’s Audit and Compliance Committee, Richard Lai of Guam, was provisionally suspended Friday by the football organization’s ethics committee after admitting taking about $1 million in bribes, including from senior Kuwaiti officials seeking to buy influence among Asian FIFA voters.Lai, a United States citizen and president of Guam’s soccer federation since 2001, pleaded guilty in Brooklyn federal court on Thursday.Lai’s case marks a stunning step forward in the American federal investigation, which had indicted or taken guilty pleas from more than 40 people and marketing agencies linked to soccer in the Americas since 2015.A Department of Justice document published Friday said, “co-conspirator #2 was a high-ranking official of FIFA, the Kuwait Football Association (KFA) and the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA).” The document did not name the alleged co-conspirators.The unnamed Kuwaiti official was “ultimately elected to the FIFA Executive Committee,” the document said.The document said “co-conspirator #3” was a “high-ranking official of the OCA and an official of the KFA.”The FIFA ethics committee typically imposes life bans on officials who have pleaded guilty in Brooklyn federal court.The Asian Football Confederation, where Lai is a long-time executive committee member, said it provisionally suspended Richard Lai from football with immediate effect.Lai admitted to two counts of wire fraud conspiracy in connection with multiple schemes to accept and pay bribes to soccer officials.The justice department document alleged Lai was approached by the Kuwaiti officials after a bitter Asian election in 2009 to choose a delegate to the FIFA executive committee. Lai had spoken out against the eventual winner, Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar.“One of the functions the defendant Richard Lai performed for Co-Conspirator #2 and Co-Conspirator #3 in exchange for the funds they sent him was to advise them on who was supporting which candidates in AFC and FIFA matters, including elections, and who Co-Conspirator #2 and Co-Conspirator #3 should recruit to support their chosen candidates,” the DoJ document saidLai “understood that at these meetings Co-Conspirator #3 or his assistants would offer or make bribe payments to these soccer officials,” the DoJ allegedLai was later wired hundreds of thousands of dollars to his accounts in Hong Kong and the Philippines by co-conspirator #3 through correspondent accounts in the United States.The latest plea reaches deep into Asian soccer for the first time and involves an official who retained his position monitoring FIFA’s multi-billion dollar income and spending in the transition from former president Sepp Blatter to his successor Gianni Infantino.Infantino praised U.S. law enforcement agencies Friday and promised cooperation from his Zurich-based organization.“I would like to thank the American authorities for their continued efforts to stamp out corruption from football,” the FIFA president said in a statement. “I am happy to confirm once again, that FIFA will provide whatever assistance is needed by the U.S. and any other authorities around the world.”FIFA, former senior officials including Blatter, and decisions to award hosting rights for World Cups from 2006 to 2022 are variously under investigation in the U.S., Switzerland, Germany and in France.Lai’s 90-day interim ban by the FIFA ethics committee prevents him taking part in the world soccer body’s audit panel meeting on May 8 in Manama, Bahrain. Also that day, Asian soccer federations meet in the city to elect delegates to the FIFA Council.Lai also pleaded guilty to failing to disclose foreign bank accounts and agreed to pay more than $1.1 million in forfeiture and penalties. The plea was entered before U.S. District Judge Pamela K. Chen.Bridget M. Rohde, an Acting U.S. Attorney, announced the guilty plea and said it “marks another important step in our ongoing effort to root out corruption in international soccer.”“The defendant abused the trust placed in him as a soccer official in order to line his own pockets. 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.”According to the criminal information to which Lai pleaded guilty, he received more than $850,000 in bribes between 2009 and 2014 from a faction of soccer officials in the Asian region in exchange for using his influence as a soccer official. The cash was intended to advance the interests of the faction that bribed him, including by helping officials in that faction identify other officials to offer bribes.A U.S. Department of Justice news release did not identify details of the faction buying influence.Lai also received $100,000 in bribes in 2011 from an official of the AFC who was then running for the FIFA presidency, in exchange for Lai’s vote and support in the then-upcoming FIFA presidential election.Mohamed bin Hammam, the AFC president who was running against Blatter in that FIFA election, was later banned for life from soccer by FIFA.GRAHAM DUNBAR, AP Sports WriterTweetPinShare0 Shareslast_img read more

Hunter Hayes Wants Child Hunger To End Here

first_imgMore than one in five of all children and more than one in four Latino children in the USmay not know where their next meal is coming from. ConAgra Foods and P&G are building a community of people to make a difference and help donate up to 7 million meals in 2014 through the Child Hunger Ends Here program.Look for the red pushpin and locate the code found on specially marked ConAgra Foods and P&G products. For each 8-digit code entered at www.ChildHungerEndsHere.com or Facebook.com/ChildHungerEndsHere from March through August 2014, ConAgra Foods or P&G, respectively, will donate the monetary equivalent of one meal to Feeding America, the leading domestic hunger-relief organization.The 2014 Child Hunger Ends Here campaign is supported by Hunter Hayes, who will lend his voice to spread awareness for child hunger while asking consumers to take action by entering a code found on participating ConAgra Foods and P&G products. In his new hit single, “Invisible,” Hayes brings visibility to the nearly 16 million children who are living in food insecure households in the United States.For every download of “Invisible” on iTunes, Child Hunger Ends Here will donate the monetary equivalent of one meal to Feeding America, up to 1 million meals. As a presenting sponsor of Hayes’ “We’re Not Invisible” tour, kicking off March 20, Child Hunger Ends Here will be activating efforts across the country encouraging consumers to take action in the fight against child hunger. The campaign will also be supported with retail promotions, national TV integrations and a social media campaign.“I’m proud to partner with ConAgra Foods’ Child Hunger Ends Here program to share the message of hope in the fight against child hunger,” says Hayes. “My new single ‘Invisible’ speaks to anyone who has ever felt outcast, alone, or invisible, including children who suffer from food insecurity. Hungry kids are in our schools, our neighborhoods and even right next door.”Consumers can easily participate by going to their local grocery stores and looking for the red pushpin and code on specially marked packages of 42 select ConAgra Foods and P&G brands, including Banquet, Chef Boyardee, Healthy Choice, Hunt’s, Pampers, Bounty, Tide and Pantene, then visiting www.ChildHungerEndsHere.com or Facebook.com/ChildHungerEndsHere to enter the eight-digit code found on the package. For each code entered, the equivalent of one meal will be donated to Feeding America. Codes can be entered through June 2014 for P&G brands and August 2014 for ConAgra Foods brands. While entering codes, consumers will be able to submit their zip codes to support the local Feeding America food bank serving their community. Up to ten local food banks with the highest number of zip codes entered within their service area will receive the monetary equivalent of a 100,000-meal donation ($11,111).“For more than 20 years, ConAgra Foods has provided funds, expertise and food to fight child hunger, and while there’s been progress, child hunger continues to be a problem across America. We created the Child Hunger Ends Here program in 2010 to raise more awareness of this serious issue, and we’ve made it simple for consumers to get involved by starting with a code – one code equals one meal,” says Gary Rodkin, CEO of ConAgra Foods. “Now, by partnering with P&G, we hope to have an even bigger impact and encourage more consumers to help us end child hunger in the U.S.”By partnering with P&G, participating Child Hunger Ends Here brands are doubled, making it easier for consumers to join the fight against child hunger.“We are incredibly grateful for ConAgra Foods’ ongoing commitment to fight domestic child hunger, and we are delighted that this year our longtime partner P&G will join the robust Child Hunger Ends Here program,” says Bob Aiken, CEO of Feeding America, “Through our national network of food banks, we help feed 14 million children each year, which we could not accomplish without the support of our partners and the engagement of their consumers.”In addition to partnering with celebrity talent, ConAgra Foods enlists its own talent for the company’s Month of Service in April. Employees at locations nationwide will volunteer at local Feeding America food banks, pack boxes of food and serve meals. The company hopes to exceed the more than 7,000 hours employees volunteered during last year’s Week of Service.Since 1993, through their partnerships with Feeding America, ConAgra Foods and ConAgra Foods Foundation have provided more than 325 million pounds of food and invested more than $37 million in capacity building, child hunger programs and groundbreaking research. The Foundation, a separate 501c3 nonprofit entity primarily funded by the company, has a $10 million, 5-year commitment to Feeding America, the largest donation ever made to Feeding America specifically to fight child hunger.Source:PR Newswirelast_img read more