Hondurans targeted in FIFA scandal deny wrongdoing

The Hondurans are Alfredo Hawit and Rafael Callejas.

AFP| Updated: Dec 04, 2015, 08:39 AM IST
Hondurans targeted in FIFA scandal deny wrongdoing

Tegucigalpa: Two Hondurans -- a senior FIFA official and a former president -- indicted by US officials for corruption within the world football federation on Thursday denied any wrongdoing.

The Hondurans are Alfredo Hawit, a FIFA vice president who was arrested in Switzerland, and Rafael Callejas, president of Honduras between 1990 and 1994.

Hawit, who also head`s FIFA`s CONCACAF arm responsible for competition football in North and Central America and the Caribbean, "assured and guaranteed that he was not involved in anything" illicit, Callejas said, reporting a conversation between the two.

Callejas, who headed Honduras` FENAFUTH football federation before Hawit, also denied the US charges leveled against him.

"Me? Why if I was never a member of CONCACAF or FIFA?" Callejas declared after the US list of 16 FIFA-linked officials indicted on charges including racketeering and money laundering.

"I have nothing to do with these aspects... What they need to analyze are football results, not speculating on other things because they are doing so for political reasons," said Callejas.

The Honduran government said in a statement Thursday that the United States had lodged an extradition request for Callejas in relation to the indictment.

The statement stressed Honduras` "commitment" to fighting impunity and "reaffirmed that nobody is above the law."

The former head of state has been accused of corruption in the past. In 1995 it was alleged he embezzled $250 million in public funds and sold undervalued state construction machinery. 

US officials canceled his visitor visa because of those charges, which Callejas dismissed as political persecution.

Callejas said Hawit made his protestation of innocence to him after Swiss police arrested him in Zurich on Thursday, along with another FIFA official, South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) president Juan Angel Napout.

Callejas said: "I have great faith that he (Hawit) will be exculpated."

CONCACAF directors have called an emergency meeting to name an interim chief to replace Hawit.

Hawit and Napout are suspected of taking bribes for the sale of marketing rights to regional tournaments and World Cup qualifying matches. The United States is seeking their extradition.

CONMEBOL issued a statement after Napout`s arrest saying it will cooperate in the investigation of the charges.

Paraguay`s sports minister, former tennis player Victor Pecci, told AFP he was surprised by the arrest of Napout -- a fellow Paraguayan and his friend since childhood -- and hoped the matter would be elucidated as soon as possible.