On Thursday,November 10, Rafael Esquivel, the former president of the Venezuelan soccer federation, pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, three counts of wire fraud conspiracy, and three counts of money laundering conspiracy in connection with his participation in multiple bribery schemes related to the awarding of contracts for the media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments. Esquivel, the president of the Venezuelan soccer federation from 1988 to 2015, was also a vice president of CONMEBOL, the South American soccer confederation, at the time of his arrest on May 27, 2015. As part of his plea, Esquivel also agreed to forfeit over $16 million. At Sentencing, Esquivel faces a maximum sentence of 20 years for each count.
According to court filing and facts presented during the plea proceeding, Esquivel was involved in multiple criminal schemes involving the payment of and agreement to pay millions of dollars in bribes from sports marketing companies in connection with, among other things, the sale of media and marketing rights to soccer tournaments. These tournaments included the Copa Libertadores, South America’s premier club team tournament, and the Copa América, which features the men’s national teams of CONMEBOL’s 10 member associations as well as two national teams invited to participate from outside of the CONMEBOL region. As part of his involvement in the criminal schemes, Esquivel used his influence as a soccer official to obtain millions of dollars in bribe payments from co-conspirators who sent the payments from overseas bank accounts into accounts Esquivel controlled at banks in the United States.