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FIFA bans top official Lai over $1m in bribes

Fifa

A top official at FIFA was banned for 90 days on Friday by football's governing body after he pleaded guilty in the United States to taking nearly $1 million in bribes.

Richard Lai, 55, president of Guam's football federation since 2001, admitted in a federal court in New York on Thursday to accepting bribes from 2009 to 2014.

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US citizen Lai, who sits on FIFA's powerful audit and compliance committee and is also an Asian Football Confederation (AFC) executive committee member, agreed to pay $1.1 million in fines and forfeiture.

FIFA banned him from all football activity for 90 days and he has also been suspended by the AFC.

Lai is just the latest top football official to be snared in a wide-ranging investigation into corruption at the highest levels of the game.

"I would like to thank the American authorities for their continued efforts to stamp out corruption from football, which is also the top priority of the new leadership of FIFA," said FIFA president Gianni Infantino, who took over from the disgraced Sepp Blatter.

"Since March 2016, as its actions have demonstrated, the new FIFA has been fully supportive of the US authorities’ investigations, and will continue to be."

Lai admitted receiving $100,000 in bribes from an AFC official in 2011 in exchange for voting for him for FIFA president.

He also pleaded guilty to receiving more than $850,000 in bribes between 2009 and 2014 from a faction of football officials wanting his help to influence FIFA and gain control of the AFC.

Lai has overseen football in the tiny Pacific island of Guam – which has a population of just 170,000 – since 2001.

A large-scale US investigation has seen federal prosecutors indict around 40 football and sports marketing executives with allegedly receiving tens of millions of bribes and kickbacks.

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