Ex-Honduran Soccer Official Pleads Not Guilty to Corruption

  • Hawit entered plea through his lawyer in Brooklyn court
  • FIFA corruption scandal fallout includes Blatter suspension

A former international soccer official from Honduras appeared in Brooklyn, New York, federal court following extradition from Switzerland and pleaded not guilty to corruption charges.

Alfredo Hawit, a former vice president of FIFA, is among dozens of soccer officials and sports marketing executives accused in a sprawling indictment alleging they took part in a 24-year scheme to trade more than $200 million of bribes for tournament media rights.

The fallout from the initial charges unveiled almost a year ago continues to spread with FIFA’s secretary general Jerome Valcke being stripped of his title earlier Wednesday. Joseph “Sepp” Blatter, who oversaw FIFA for 17 years, and European soccer boss Michel Platini were banned for eight years over an unauthorized payment of 2 million Swiss francs ($2 million).

Twelve people secretly pleaded guilty before a new indictment was unsealed on Dec. 3. The case was first made public in May.

Hawit, 64, was one of two FIFA officials arrested in December when Swiss police moved at dawn into the Baur au Lac, a Zurich luxury hotel. He pleaded not guilty Wednesday through his attorney Justin Weddle.

U.S. prosecutors have charged top soccer officials across Central and South America with racketeering, corruption and money laundering, bringing its investigation of bribery and kickbacks just short of the highest rungs of the sport’s governing body.

Allegations of bribery touched current and former soccer chiefs from Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama and Peru.

Money Laundering

Hawit, who was also the head of Concacaf, soccer’s governing body for North and Central America and the Caribbean, is accused of accepting and laundering hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes from 2008 to 2014 when he was the general secretary of the Honduran soccer federation.

He allegedly took $250,000 in bribes in exchange for awarding media rights to a South American sports marketing company when he was the acting president of Concacaf. He’s also accused of conspiring to obstruct justice.

Prosecutors said in a letter filed with the court on Wednesday that he poses a “serious risk of flight” and should only be allowed to remain free “pursuant to a substantial, heavily secured bond signed by a number of financially responsible sureties.”

$4 Million Bond

Prosecutors said they were seeking a bond of at least $4 million secured by at least $500,000 in cash or real estate in the U.S.

“The defendant is an attorney and prominent citizen of Honduras, where his wife and most of his children reside and where he owns a significant amount of real property and businesses,” prosecutors said in the letter. He “has significant and powerful contacts abroad and has frequently traveled all around the world.”

In court on Wednesday, Weddle told U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Levy that his client is unable to meet the bail terms requested by the government. Weddle asked for a $1 million bond, and for Hawit to remain under house arrest with family in Florida.

"The defendant is not a wealthy defendant," he said.

Hawit, who has been in custody in Switzerland, suffers from pancreatitis, Weddle said. The prison diet has been hard for Hawit, Weddle said.

Levy said Wednesday Hawit will remain in custody. Prosecutors and the defense lawyer are expected to return to court later this week to see if they can reach an agreement.

The case is U.S. v. Webb, 1:15-cr-252, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).

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