Ex-FIFA official pleads for release on bond pending possible trial

Wed Feb 10, 2016 12:53pm EST
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By David Ingram

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A former official of soccer's world governing body FIFA pleaded with a U.S. judge on Wednesday to allow his release on bond after having spent nine months in Swiss and U.S. jails.

Eduardo Li, who was a member-elect of FIFA's executive committee when he was arrested in Zurich in May, said at a hearing in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, that he would not flee if he were released pending a possible trial.

"I've had a work relationship with the United States my whole life," said Li, 57, a Costa Rican citizen who owns a freight-forwarding business in his home country.

"My son and my daughter have studied here, and I have no intention of absconding," he added, speaking in Spanish through a translator. "I want a chance."

U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Levy did not allow Li's release at Wednesday's hearing but told his lawyers and U.S. prosecutors to go on negotiating a bond package to assure Li does not flee. Another hearing was scheduled for Feb. 23.

A former president of Costa Rica's national soccer federation, Li is charged with taking bribes in exchange for awarding contracts to a sports marketing firm and for arranging friendly matches with other national teams.

He has pleaded not guilty to charges including fraud and money-laundering.

He was among the first soccer officials arrested as part of a sweeping U.S. investigation of corruption in soccer that has sent FIFA and other governing bodies into an unprecedented crisis. Forty-one individuals and entities have been charged, including the heads of other national federations.   Continued...

Eduardo Li speaks to the media in San Antonio de Belen May 17, 2011.  REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate/Files