New York - Two soccer bosses including a
former president of Honduras pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to US charges they
took bribes in exchange for media and marketing contracts in a scandal that has
rocked the business of global soccer.
Rafael Callejas, who was president of
Honduras from 1990 to 1994 and later became president of its soccer federation,
flashed a thumbs-up to someone in the audience as he left a hearing in federal
court in Brooklyn, New York.
Juan Angel Napout, a Paraguayan and former
president of the South American confederation CONMEBOL, pleaded not guilty at a
The two came to the United States
voluntarily after their indictment on bribery charges was unsealed on December
They are among 41 people and entities charged in a US corruption sweep that
has sent soccer's world governing body FIFA into an unprecedented crisis.
The 72-year-old Callejas, who has served on
a FIFA committee, did not immediately seek release on bail. He has said he bore
no responsibility for the accusations and was ready to defend himself.
Callejas is charged with taking bribes from
Media World, an affiliate of Spain's Imagina Group, so that the company could
obtain media and marketing rights for qualifier matches ahead of the 2014, 2018
and 2022 World Cup tournaments.
Imagina has said it would cooperate fully
with US authorities. It suspended the chief executive of Media World and
A magistrate judge approved a $20 million
bond package that cleared the way for Napout's release to home detention with
24-hour security and video surveillance.
Napout, 57, quit CONMEBOL last week
and was suspended from his position as a FIFA vice president.
Napout is charged with soliciting bribe
payments from two sports marketing firms to secure his support for awarding
commercial rights to soccer tournaments including the popular Copa
In parallel investigations, Swiss and US
authorities are focusing on whether business contracts and the World Cup
hosting rights for 2018 in Russia and 2022 in Qatar were won with the help of
The schemes described in the December 3
indictment involved over $200 million in bribes and kickbacks sought for
marketing and broadcast rights to tournaments and matches.
Of the 41 defendants, 14 have pleaded
guilty. At least four others including Callejas and Napout are in the United
States. The rest are in various stages of extradition proceedings.