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 By PA Sport

FIFA suspends Asian Confederation official Richard Lai after bribery plea

Richard Lai
Richard Lai is a member of FIFA's audit and compliance committee.

FIFA has provisionally suspended a senior Asian Football Confederation (AFC) official from all football-related activity for 90 days after he pleaded guilty to giving and taking bribes.

Guam Football Association president Richard Lai, a member of FIFA's audit and compliance committee, entered his plea at a New York court on Thursday.

He is a former member of the AFC's executive committee and still sits on the body's marketing committee.

Lai's ban, which comes into force immediately and can be extended by 45 days, was confirmed in a statement from FIFA's ethics committee.

The statement said the decision "was taken upon the request of the chairman of the investigatory chamber, Dr Cornel Borbely" after Lai's guilty plea to charges of wire fraud conspiracy was published by the United States Department of Justice (DoJ).

The FIFA decision was preceded by a similar ruling from the AFC, which said Lai has been "provisionally suspended from football with immediate effect under the AFC's disciplinary and ethics code."

Lai's case is significant as it represents the first time the US-led investigation into football-related corruption has extended beyond the Americas.

But most important of all are the details of the case as they implicate former FIFA vice-president and AFC president Mohamed Bin Hammam.

The Qatari was banned for life by FIFA in 2011 for allegedly trying to bribe members of the Caribbean Football Union to vote for him against incumbent Sepp Blatter in the FIFA presidential elections.

With Bin Hammam out of the frame, Blatter would eventually win a fourth term unopposed. The Qatari would overturn that life ban at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in 2012, only to receive another FIFA life ban for AFC-related corruption.

Lai pleaded guilty to receiving USD 100,000 (£77,000) from an individual the DoJ described as "an official of the AFC who was then running for the FIFA presidency" in exchange for his vote.

The DoJ statement said Lai also received over $850,000 between 2009 and 2014 from a "faction of soccer officials in the AFC region" for his support.

In total, the US investigation has led to more than 40 football officials and businessmen being charged, with 21 now pleading guilty and paying huge fines.

Lai has agreed to forfeit $1.1 million.

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