New guilty plea in U.S. bribery probe into FIFA

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A former general secretary of the Cayman Islands Football Association has pleaded guilty to money laundering conspiracy in connection with the U.S. probe into bribery involving the world soccer governing body FIFA.

Costas Takkas, former secretary-general of the Cayman Islands Football Association, departs the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse in the Brooklyn borough of New York April 13, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Costas Takkas, a 60-year-old British citizen, entered his plea on Wednesday at a hearing before U.S. District Judge Pamela Chen in Brooklyn, New York. He faces a maximum 20-year prison term when he is sentenced on Sept. 19, court records show.

Takkas was among more than 40 people and entities charged in a U.S. probe into the payment of more than $200 million of bribes and kickbacks to soccer officials, in exchange for marketing and broadcast rights.

Prosecutors said Takkas had been the attaché to Jeffrey Webb, a former FIFA vice president and president of CONCACAF, the governing body for soccer in North America, Central America and the Caribbean.

Takkas was accused of receiving and transmitting millions of dollars in bribes for Webb, including for the awarding of rights to qualifier matches for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Unlike some other defendants who have also entered guilty pleas, Takkas was not required to admit to racketeering, his lawyer, Gordon Mehler, said.

“This speaks to his position, which is that he was a minor figure in a major case,” Mehler said in an interview.

Takkas had been charged with 10 criminal counts, court records show.

Webb pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and other charges in November 2015.

CONCACAF is an acronym for the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football.

The case is U.S. v. Takkas, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, No. 15-cr-00252.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Frances Kerry