Defendant Accepted and Facilitated Bribes Within the Asian Football Confederation
Earlier today, Richard K. Lai, a United States citizen, pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging him with two counts of wire fraud conspiracy in connection with his participation in multiple schemes to accept and pay bribes to soccer officials. Lai also pleaded guilty to one count of failing to disclose foreign bank accounts and agreed to pay more than $1.1 million in forfeiture and penalties. The plea was entered before United States District Judge Pamela K. Chen at federal courthouse in Brooklyn, New York.
The guilty plea was announced by Bridget M. Rohde, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI); and Special Agent-in-Charge R. Damon Rowe, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, Los Angeles Field Office (IRS).
“Today’s plea marks another important step in our ongoing effort to root out corruption in international soccer,” stated Acting United States Attorney Rohde. “The defendant abused the trust placed in him as a soccer official in order to line his own pockets, and now he will be held to account. 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.”
“Years of this systemic culture of corruption and greed have tainted one of the world’s most popular sports,” stated Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney. “Kickbacks and bribes became the norm for doing business with FIFA, but not anymore. The plea deal today and all the other cases tied to this investigation prove our work isn’t done, and we will continue to pursue anyone who had their hands in illegal activity.”
“Today’s guilty plea by Guam Football Association president Richard K. Lai, reaffirms the dedication of IRS Criminal Investigation to use our financial investigative expertise to uncover corrupt schemes and illicit payments involving FIFA officials,” stated Special Agent-in-Charge Rowe. “Co-conspirators may try to hide and launder the proceeds of their corrupt self-enrichment, but as mentioned in the legal documents filed today, IRS-CI Special Agents will trace and uncover those funds both through the U.S. financial system and beyond, to offshore jurisdictions in locations such as Asia, the Middle East, and around the globe.”
As alleged in the criminal information to which he pleaded guilty, Lai, a resident of the U.S. territory of Guam, has served as the president of the Guam Football Association (GFA) since 2001. In that capacity, Lai had a vote in FIFA presidential elections. Lai has also served at various times as a member and chair of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Finance Committee and a member of the AFC Executive Committee, and is currently a member of the AFC Marketing Committee and the FIFA Audit and Compliance Committee.
As also set forth in the information, Lai pleaded guilty to a scheme in which he 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.
As further described in the information, Lai also pleaded guilty to a scheme in which he received over $850,000 in bribes between 2009 and 2014 from a faction of soccer officials in the AFC region. Lai received those bribes in exchange for using his influence as a soccer official to advance the interests of the faction that bribed him, including by helping officials in that faction identify other officials in the AFC to whom they should offer bribes. The goal of this scheme was for the faction to gain control of the AFC and influence FIFA.
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 Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, and the Fraud Section, as well as from INTERPOL Washington.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul Tuchmann, Nadia Shihata, and Brian D. Morris of the Eastern District of New York are in charge of today’s prosecution.
The government’s investigation is ongoing.
RICHARD K. LAI
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 17 CR 224 (PKC)