FIFA corruption scandal: Hector Trujillo first official sentenced in US | News | DW | 26.10.2017
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FIFA corruption scandal: Hector Trujillo first official sentenced in US

A former judge and soccer official from Guatemala has been ordered to serve eight months in prison for accepting bribes. Hector Trujillo is the first to be sentenced in the US in the corruption scandal engulfing FIFA.

The former judge and FIFA official, 63-year-old Hector Trujillo, stood with his head bowed and wiped away tears in a federal courtroom in Brooklyn, as Judge Pamela Chen handed down an eight-month jail sentence.

He had pleaded guilty in June to conspiracy and wire fraud charges for being part of a group that accepted more than $400,000 (340,000 euros) in bribes and kickbacks. The football officials took bribes from an American company to sell them the media and marketing rights to Guatemala's qualifying matches for upcoming Football World Cups.

Trujillo had personally pocketed almost $200,000. He is the first person to be sentenced in a US probe into bribery surrounding football's world governing body.

Read more: Swiss prosecutors quiz PSG president Nasser al-Khelaifi over World Cup media rights

"In some ways he destroyed his country. Soccer is the national love and a patriotic endeavor. He should have known better and done better when he took that money," Chen said, adding that the bribe money "should have been used to build soccer fields in poor neighborhoods" or to buy uniforms for the athletes.

Trujillo, who was general secretary of Guatemala's soccer federation, was arrested in December 2015 in Florida while on holiday.

The crimes had come under US jurisdiction because money was funneled through US banks. He was ordered, along with two co-defendants, to pay $415,000 to the Guatemalan football association as well as $175,000 in restitution to the US government. Prosecutors had called for a much longer sentence.

Trujillo: 'I was blind'

Speaking through an interpreter, Trujillo begged the judge for mercy, detailing how he overcame a poor but happy childhood to himself become a judge on Guatemala's constitutional court. He said he rationalized the bribes as a reward for years of good work.

"Looking back I think I was blind. I did not see it," he sobbed. "Maybe I justified it by thinking it was something normal. I thought it was something different from the corruption I fought for so many years."

Trujillo had pledged to forfeit most of the money he received to the US government as part of his plea agreement.

US crackdown

Assistant US attorney Paul Tuchmann said Trujillo was similar to scores of other defendants in the FIFA scandal because he seemed to think it was a victimless crime.

"It's not a victimless crime," Tuchmann said. "That culture of corruption needs to be stopped and deterred."

The US corruption investigation into football's world governing body came to a head in 2015 when police in Switzerland arrested seven high-ranking officials. The scandal sparked several other probes and led to the downfall of FIFA's former president Sepp Blatter and his former likely successor Michel Platini.

se/ng (AP, dpa, AFP)

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