A sports marketing executive from Florida pleaded not guilty on Friday to conspiracy and other charges stemming from the FIFA corruption scandal.
Aaron Davidson entered the plea through his lawyer in federal court in Brooklyn, becoming the first defendant to be arraigned in a U.S. court since the case was announced earlier this week. He was to be released on $5 million bond secured with homes owned by he and his wife and other family members.
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Davidson, who was arrested on Wednesday, was among 14 people named in racketeering indictment accusing soccer officials of accepting more than $150 million in bribes. Prosecutors say they took the cash in exchange for rigging bids by marketing firms for commercial contracts and by countries seeking to host the 2010 World Cup.
The indictment accuses Davidson of being involved in a $3 million bribe sought by a FIFA vice president and executive committee member in 2012. The bribe resulted in a $24 million contract with Davidson’s firm, Miami-based Traffic Sports USA Inc., that gave it marketing rights for World Cup qualifying matches, it says.
The indictment also describes a 2014 meeting in New York between Davidson and an unnamed co-conspirator to discuss the bribery schemes.
”Is it illegal? It is illegal,” it quotes Davidson as saying about the arrangements. ”Within the big picture of things, a company that has worked in this industry for 30 years, is it bad? It is bad.”