NEW YORK – A former high-ranking official in the governing body of the world's most popular sport appeared before a judge Saturday, entering a not guilty plea in a massive racketeering and bribery case that rocked international soccer.
Jeffrey Webb will not be the last charged in the far-reaching corruption case to see the inside of a U.S. courtroom if prosecutors have their way — six more FIFA officials are charged and fighting extradition.
Webb posted a $10 million bond at his arraignment in federal court. He surrendered three passports — two from the United Kingdom and one from the Cayman Islands — and will be required to wear an electronic monitoring device as a condition of his release.
Webb's bond was secured by 10 different people including his wife and her parents, who were in the courtroom. They posted real estate, retirement accounts, automobiles and jewelry as part of the bond. He did not speak except to say "Yes, your honor" when the judge asked if he understood the charges.
Afterward, Webb's lawyer, Edward O'Callaghan, did not comment. Prosecutors also declined comment.
Webb, 50, was among seven FIFA officials detained in Switzerland last spring. Prosecutors allege the defendants plotted to pay bribes of more than $150 million — tied to the award of broadcasting and hosting rights for the World Cup and other tournaments — over a 24-year period.
Following the indictment, Webb received a provisional ban and was replaced as the FIFA vice president from the North and Central American and Caribbean region. Webb was also president of CONCACAF, the regional governing body for soccer in North America, Central America and the Caribbean.
A total of 14 men — nine soccer officials and five marketing executives — were indicted by the U.S. Justice Department in May, including former FIFA vice president Jack Warner, who is resisting extradition from Trinidad and Tobago. The revelations prompted FIFA president Sepp Blatter to resign within days of the arrests.
Webb promised reform when he was elected in 2012 to succeed Warner as president of CONCACAF.
Other conditions of his release include having no contact with FIFA or CONCACAF officials, nor any of his alleged co-conspirators, prosecutors said during Saturday's court proceeding in Brooklyn.
He was ordered to remain in the New York metropolitan area until his trial. He agreed to pay the cost for a private security firm to conduct around-the-clock monitoring of his whereabouts.
The scandal erupted in May when former FIFA executive committee member Chuck Blazer pleaded guilty to charges that included bribery and tax evasion. Blazer admitted sharing in a $10 million bribe scheme with others to support South Africa's bid for the 2010 world cup.
Blazer is a key cooperating witness in the corruption investigation. He had agreed to wear a hidden microphone during a meeting with FIFA officials. In exchange for Blazer's cooperation and guilty pleas to 10 counts, U.S. prosecutors said they will not recommend a specific sentence for his crimes.
Webb, who is from the Cayman Islands, also has a residence in Georgia, prosecutors said during Saturday's proceeding. After the court proceeding, Webb hugged his wife and other relatives who posted the bond.
On Friday, sponsor Coca-Cola told FIFA to appoint an independent commission to lead a reform aimed at cleaning up the committee's governing body. The soft drinks giant said it asked FIFA to allow "one or more eminent, impartial leaders" to explore how the organization can regain credibility and trust from fans.
Later in the day, McDonald's, another soccer sponsor, publicly rebuked FIFA for internal controls that they said were inconsistent with McDonald's standards.
FIFA said it valued the sponsors' input but did not endorse calls for a commission.