NEW YORK – Ex-Guatemala soccer chief and former FIFA executive committee member Rafael Salguero was sentenced to time served on Thursday, releasing him from house arrest over the sweeping corruption scandal plaguing world soccer.
The 73-year-old pleaded guilty in October 2016 to criminal conspiracy, two counts of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and conspiracy to launder money, and had been under house arrest in the United States.
According to court documents published this week, he has spent three years under house arrest at an undisclosed location in the United States.
On Thursday, he had faced a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on each count, but cooperation deals customarily slash back incarceration periods.
Judge Pamela Chen accepted the recommendation of the US government – that Salguero be sentenced to time served and two years' probation, allowing him to escape the prospect of going to an American prison.
She also ordered Salguero to pay back up to $288,000 which he admitted receiving in bribes in exchange for granting television and marketing rights to soccer tournaments and the illegal re-sale of World Cup tickets.
"I am calm and happy," Salguero told AFP after the hearing in federal court. "I will go back to Guatemala whenever I can. I want to be with my family and devote myself to them," he added.
In court he apologized for his mistakes, but blamed them on a "tsunami in world football," a reference that irritated the judge.
"Tsunami suggests a lack of control. He could have easily done his duty honestly," Chen told the court. "But he chose not to."
In 2015, US prosecutors lifted the lid on a quarter of a century of endemic corruption in the heart of FIFA, football's governing body, and on the largest graft scandal in the world's most popular sport.
Forty-two officials and marketing executives, as well as a sports company, were indicted with corruption crimes totaling more than $200 million.
Chen said Thursday that the scheme "rotted the very core" of international professional soccer and had "certainly given a black eye to the sport around the world."
The US investigation led to two convictions at trial and precipitated the downfall of longtime FIFA president Sepp Blatter and his former heir apparent, Michel Platini.AFP