Former President Of The Costa Rican Soccer Federation And Member-Elect Of The FIFA Executive Committee Pleads Guilty To Racketeering And Corruption Charges
Earlier today in federal court in Brooklyn, Eduardo Li pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud, and wire fraud conspiracy in connection with his receipt of bribes in exchange for his awarding contracts for the media and marketing rights to FIFA World Cup qualifier matches and his authorization of international friendly matches played by the Costa Rican national soccer team, among other conduct. Li, the president of the Costa Rican soccer federation (FEDEDUT) from 2007 to 2015, was a member-elect of the FIFA executive committee at the time of his arrest in Zurich on May 27, 2015 and a member of the CONCACAF executive committee from 2013 to 2015. As part of his plea, Li agreed to forfeit $668,000. At sentencing, Li faces a maximum sentence of 20 years for each count. Today’s plea proceeding took place before United States District Judge Pamela K. Chen.
The guilty plea was announced by Robert L. Capers, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director in Charge, FBI, New York Field Office; and Acting Special Agent in Charge Anthony J. Orlando, IRS Criminal Investigation, Los Angeles Field Office.
According to court filings and facts presented during the plea proceeding, Li negotiated and accepted bribes totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars in exchange for exercising his influence as the president of FEDEFUT to award a Florida sports marketing company a contract for the media and marketing rights to the Costa Rican national soccer team’s home World Cup qualifier matches for the 2022 edition of the World Cup. These bribes were transmitted from U.S. bank accounts to Li using intermediaries in the United States and Costa Rica. Li also accepted tens of thousands of dollars in bribes, which were also transmitted from bank accounts in the United States, in exchange for exercising his influence as president of FEDEFUT to authorize friendly matches played by the Costa Rican national soccer team.
In addition, Li agreed to accept a $500,000 bribe from intermediaries in Panama in exchange for exercising his influence as president of FEDEFUT to award an American company the contract to serve as the uniform sponsor for the Costa Rican national soccer team. The intermediaries told Li not to tell anyone at the uniform sponsor about the bribe. Li received approximately $230,000 of the bribe money from the intermediaries in cash United States currency in 2014 and 2015 but was arrested before he could receive the balance.
Finally, Li embezzled for his own use over $90,000 of funds that FIFA sent to FEDEFUT to support the 2014 Under 17 FIFA Women’s World Cup soccer tournament, which was held in Costa Rica. Li diverted these funds through a scheme involving bogus invoices.
The guilty plea announced today is part of an investigation into corruption in international soccer being led by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, the FBI New York Field Office, and the IRS-CI Los Angeles Field Office. The prosecutors in Brooklyn are receiving considerable assistance from attorneys in various parts of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division in Washington, D.C., including the Office of International Affairs, the Organized Crime and Gang Section, the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, and the Fraud Section, as well as from INTERPOL Washington.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Evan M. Norris, Amanda Hector, Paul Tuchmann, Nadia Shihata, Keith D. Edelman, and Brian D. Morris of the Eastern District of New York are in charge of today’s prosecution.
The government’s investigation is ongoing.
Nationality: Costa Rica
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 15 CR 252 (S-1)