Ex-Guatemalan soccer chief pleads not guilty to U.S. bribery charges

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A former president of Guatemala’s soccer federation pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to charges that he participated in bribery schemes at the heart of a corruption investigation into world soccer’s governing body, FIFA.

Former Guatemalan football federation president Brayan Jimenez (C) exits the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse in the Brooklyn borough of New York March 2, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Brayan Jimenez, the former president, entered his plea through his lawyer in federal court in Brooklyn to racketeering conspiracy and wire fraud charges, a day after being extradited from Guatemala. He was arrested in Guatemala in January.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Ramon Reyes set bond at $1.5 million, and directed that Jimenez, 61, be confined at a friend’s home in New Jersey.

Jimenez indicated that he might engage in plea talks, responding “that’s correct” when asked by the judge whether time should be provided for possible discussions with the U.S. government about a new plea.

Outside of court, Justine Harris, his lawyer, told reporters that Jimenez “looks forward to facing the charges.”

Jimenez is among 41 individuals and entities charged as part of a U.S. investigation into schemes involving over $200 million in bribes and kickbacks sought by soccer officials for marketing and broadcast rights to tournaments and matches.

Gianni Infantino, FIFA’s newly-elected president, has vowed to lead the organization out of years of scandal.

U.S. and Swiss investigations continue.

Jimenez had been president of Federación Nacional de Futbol de Guatemala, the country’s soccer federation, since 2010, and a member of the FIFA Committee for Fair Play and Social Responsibility.

U.S. prosecutors have said that beginning in 2010, Jimenez solicited and accepted bribe payments from Media World, an affiliate of Spanish media company Imagina Group, in exchange for media and marketing rights for World Cup qualifier matches.

One payment was a “six-figure bribe” to be split among Jimenez and two other Guatemalans for media and marketing rights for 2018 World Cup qualifier matches, according to an indictment.

Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; editing by Grant McCool