Former President Of The Venezuelan Soccer Federation Pleads Guilty To Racketeering And Corruption Charges
Earlier this morning in federal court in Brooklyn, Rafael Esquivel, the former president of the Venezuelan soccer federation, pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, three counts of wire fraud conspiracy, and three counts of money laundering conspiracy in connection with his participation in multiple bribery schemes related to the awarding of contracts for the media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments. Esquivel, the president of the Venezuelan soccer federation from 1988 to 2015, was also a vice president of CONMEBOL, the South American soccer confederation, at the time of his arrest on May 27, 2015. As part of his plea, Esquivel also agreed to forfeit over $16 million. At sentencing, Esquivel 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, Esquivel was involved in multiple criminal schemes involving the payment of and agreement to pay millions of dollars in bribes from sports marketing companies in connection with, among other things, the sale of media and marketing rights to soccer tournaments. These tournaments included the Copa Libertadores, South America’s premier club team tournament, and the Copa América, which features the men’s national teams of CONMEBOL’s 10 member associations as well as two national teams invited to participate from outside the CONMEBOL region. As part of his involvement in the criminal schemes, Esquivel used his influence as a soccer official to obtain millions of dollars in bribe payments from co-conspirators who sent the payments from overseas banks accounts into accounts Esquivel controlled at banks in the United States.
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, Samuel P. Nitze, M. Kristin Mace, Tanya Hajjar, and Brian D. Morris of the Eastern District of New York are in charge of today’s prosecution.
The government’s investigation is ongoing.
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 15 CR 252 (S-1)