US argues against release of CONCACAF chief

The U.S. Department of Justice is opposing the release on bond of indicted CONCACAF president Alfredo Hawit because it fears the Honduran national may leave the country if he is released from custody on a low bond.

Hawit, who was arrested last month in Switzerland as part of the ongoing FIFA corruption and bribery probe, did not contest his extradition to the U.S. He pleaded not guilty last week to racketeering and bribery charges during an appearance in federal court.

The two previous CONCACAF presidents, Jeffrey Webb of Cayman and Jack Warner of Trinidad, were also arrested and charged in connection with the FIFA investigation, which alleges that numerous current and former world football officials accepted bribes in exchange for awarding commercial rights to certain football tournaments to sports marketing companies.

CONCACAF is FIFA’s regional governing body for football activities in the Caribbean, North and Central America.

Webb is out of prison on bond and facing sentencing after pleading guilty in November to racketeering, money laundering conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy charges. Warner is fighting extradition to the U.S. from Trinidad in a legal process that is expected to take years.

No one currently sits in the leadership position at CONCACAF. Internal elections for the organization are expected to be held in May.

In seeking to hold Hawit in prison, U.S. authorities asked for a US$4 million bond, secured by at least US$500,000 in property and/or cash.

Hawit and his attorneys have proposed a number of “bail packages,” including one on Jan. 15 that sought release on a US$50,000 cash security for the bond.

“The government respectfully submits that, with the current bail package, $50,000 in security is far too low to warrant pre-trial release,” the Department of Justice stated in a three-page letter seeking Hawit’s continued confinement.

“The proposed security has not been offered by any relative or friend with moral suasion over the defendant,” the department stated.

“It is troubling that despite the defendant’s stature in his community and network of extended family and other contacts, no proposed surety has offered to post any collateral on the defendant’s behalf. This … would appear to speak volumes about the extent of the sureties’ faith in [Hawit’s] willingness to abide by the terms of pretrial release.”

Hawit’s net worth is estimated to be about US$2 million, according to Department of Justice statements.

A hearing is set for Thursday in U.S. federal court in the Eastern District of New York regarding his proposed release on bond.