U.S. Marketing Executive in Plea Talks Over FIFA, U.S. Says

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One of five marketing executives charged alongside nine soccer officials in a U.S. corruption probe of FIFA is negotiating a plea deal, according to a Justice Department filing.

Aaron Davidson, 44, former president of Traffic Sports USA Inc., a subsidiary of Sao Paulo-based Traffic Group, is “actively engaged in plea negotiations,” according to a letter filed Thursday in federal court in Brooklyn, New York.

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Assistant U.S. Attorney Evan Norris gave no further information about the talks Friday at a court conference in Brooklyn on the case.

Davidson is accused of bribing soccer officials for media and sponsorship rights. He pleaded not guilty on May 29 and is under house arrest on $5 million bail in Miami.

The nine officials at FIFA, international soccer’s governing body, and the five marketing executives were charged in a racketeering and bribery indictment unsealed May 27.

Seven defendants were arrested that day in Zurich. One of the men, suspended FIFA vice president Jeffrey Webb, has been extradited to the U.S. Webb, who hasn’t yet appeared in court, was also the president of Concacaf, the soccer federation covering Central and North America and the Caribbean.

Passages from the 162-page indictment indicate that Davidson may have been recorded as part of the probe.

‘It Is Bad’

The government alleged that Davidson, referring to the practice of paying bribes for commercial rights to tournaments, told an alleged accomplice: “Is it illegal? It is illegal. Within the big picture of things, a company that has worked in this industry for 30 years. Is it bad? It is bad.”

Evidence in the case may include “audio recordings in multiple languages” as well as bank and wire transfers, financial records, contracts, e-mails, text messages, handwritten notes and meeting minutes, prosecutors said in the letter Thursday.

The government has also seized records from the offices of Concacaf and Traffic Sports USA and received records provided by foreign countries, prosecutors said.

The U.S. is alleging that soccer officials took part in more than a dozen criminal schemes, including bribery conspiracies involving marketing rights for tournaments, the selection of South Africa as the host for the 2010 World Cup and the 2011 FIFA presidential election.

Before the FIFA case was announced, Traffic founder Jose Hawilla, 71, pleaded guilty in December in a sealed Brooklyn courtroom and admitted that he agreed to pay millions of dollars in bribes to secure the rights to Copa America tournaments.

Prosecutors said Davidson played a role in that scheme and two others. If convicted, he faces as long as 20 years in prison.

The case is U.S. v. Webb, 15-cr-252, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).

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