Ex-Nicaraguan Soccer Official Pleads Not Guilty to Corruption

  • Julio Rocha appears in Brooklyn court in FIFA bribery case
  • Appearence in U.S. follows extradition from Switzerland

Former President of the Nicaraguan Football Federation Julio Rocha.

Photographer: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/AFP via Getty Images

A former president of Nicaragua’s soccer federation pleaded not guilty to U.S. corruption charges in a sprawling investigation into international organizers of the sport.

Julio Rocha, who also served as a development officer in Panama for FIFA, the governing body of international soccer, appeared in Brooklyn, New York federal court Wednesday following his extradition from Switzerland, where he was arrested last May. Rocha is one of 42 individuals and business entities that have been charged over an alleged bribery scheme.

QuickTake The World Cup - Competition and Corruption

Rocha, who appeared with his lawyers, spoke through a Spanish interpreter during a hearing before Magistrate Judge Robert M. Levy, who agreed to release Levy on $1.5 million bond. Rocha plans to live in Florida while his case proceeds, his lawyers said. Having just arrived from Switzerland, Levy told Rocha that he must be tired; he responded affirmatively.

Prosecutors allege that international soccer officials took more than $200 million in bribes from business executives in exchange for media and marketing rights to tournaments over more than two decades.

Rocha is accused of soliciting a “six-figure bribe” in exchange for exclusive media rights to qualifier matches for the 2018 World Cup. A sports marketing business then wired $150,000 to an intermediary, $100,000 of which was intended for Rocha, according to prosecutors.

The U.S. investigation has ensnared current and former soccer chiefs from Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama and Peru. So far, 15 of the individuals charged have pleaded guilty.

The case is U.S. v. Trujillo, 16-cr-108, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).

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