By Nate Raymond and Brendan McDermid
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A former head of the Peruvian soccer federation pleaded not guilty on Friday to U.S. charges stemming from a wide-ranging bribery investigation involving FIFA, the sport’s world governing body.
Manuel Burga, who led the Peruvian Football Federation from 2002 to 2014, entered his plea to racketeering conspiracy and other charges in federal court in Brooklyn after being extradited from Peru.
Burga, who at the time of his indictment in December 2015 was also a member of a FIFA standing committee focused on soccer training and technical development, was ordered detained by U.S. Magistrate Judge James Orenstein.
Burga’s extradition came after it was approved last week by Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, five months after a Peruvian court found that the U.S. request was substantiated.
Burga, 59, is one of 42 people and entities charged as part of a U.S. investigation that upended Zurich-based FIFA and the soccer world. To date, 19 people and two companies have pleaded guilty in connection with the probe.
Prosecutors said the defendants engaged in more than $200 million in bribes and kickbacks that were sought and received by soccer officials for marketing and broadcasting rights to tournaments and matches.
According to the indictment, Burga and five other presidents of traditionally less-powerful member associations of South American confederation CONMEBOL in 2009 began demanding bribes from an affiliate of an Argentine sports media company.
The bribes were in exchange for supporting the affiliate of Torneos y Competencias SA as holding the broadcasting rights to CONMEBOL’s premier club team tournament, Copa Libertadores, among other tournaments, the indictment said.
It said Burga and other officials also solicited bribes from an entity co-established by Torneos y Competencias in connection with a 2013 contract for the rights to the 2015, 2019 and 2023 Copa America tournaments and the 2016 Copa America Centenario.
(Additional reporting by Mitra Taj in Lima; Editing by Alistair Bell and Will Dunham)