Argentine exec pleads not guilty in FIFA corruption case

July 31, 2015

NEW YORK — An Argentine sports marketing executive on Friday pleaded not guilty and posted a $20 million bond, the second foreign citizen to appear before a U.S. court in connection with a sweeping FIFA corruption scandal.

Alejandro Burzaco surrendered to Italian police on Tuesday before flying to New York to face U.S. justice in a case that has rocked world football. He is one of 14 FIFA officials and sports marketing executives accused of soliciting and receiving more than $150 million in bribes and kickbacks spanning 24 years. Among those accused is the president of Costa Rica’s football federation, Eduardo Li.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch unveiled the 47-count indictment in May.

Burzaco pleaded not guilty to three charges of racketeering, money laundering and wire fraud conspiracy and posted a $20 million bond for his release, underwritten by friends and family.

The defendant cut an elegant figure in the U.S. federal court in Brooklyn, dressed in a dark suit, a pale blue tie and a crisp white shirt. He responded politely to the magistrate’s questions.

Government prosecutors told Magistrate Judge Vera Scanlon that Burzaco was not considered a flight risk given that he had handed himself in overseas.

Burzaco’s decision to surrender has triggered speculation he may be poised to negotiate a deal with prosecutors.

His lawyer made no comment after leaving court.

The assets put up to guarantee the $20 million bond offered a breathtaking insight into the wealth that the dual Argentine-Italian citizen has accumulated, and the trust of close friends and family.

They include cash deposits of $3.3 million, to be made by October 1, and three properties in the United States owned by his sister and a close friend.

It also included Burzaco’s 20 percent ownership of a company — a share estimated to be worth more than $15 million.

Among the six relatives and friends underwriting his bond were a sister with an annual income of $300,000 and a net worth of more than $1 million and a friend with an estimated net worth of more than $10 million.

Burzaco’s ex-wife, who was also in court, had flown from Buenos Aires to support him, his lawyer told the magistrate.

Among conditions of his release are that he live in an FBI-approved residence within 50 miles of the court.

He must surrender his passports to the FBI, submit to electronic tagging and restrict his movements to New York and Long Island.

On July 18, former FIFA vice president Jeffrey Webb also pleaded not guilty in connection with the same scandal. Arrested in Switzerland in May, he was the only one not to fight extradition.

The Cayman Islands-British citizen posted a $10 million bond and was ordered not to stray further than 20 miles of the courthouse.

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