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Panama company to fold after guilty plea in football corruption scandal

Panama-based Mimo International Exports and Imports has become the latest company or individual to be sanctioned as part of the US prosecution into corruption in world football and will be dissolved as part of its plea agreement.

The Reuters news agency said Mimo pleaded guilty to bribing Eduardo Li, former president of the Costa Rican Football Association (FEDEFUTBOL) and Executive Committee member of the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (Concacaf).

Mimo entered its plea in front of U.S. District Judge Pamela Chen in Brooklyn yesterday (Wednesday). Chen ordered that $500,000 (€403,000) in restitution be paid to FEDEFUTBOL, while a fine of $900,000 will also be imposed on the company.

Mimo admitted to agreeing in 2014 to pay Li $500,000 to sign a kit partnership for the Costa Rican national team with a US sportswear company. Mimo was said to be seeking to exit a 2012 deal in which it had agreed to manufacture or import apparel from an Italian company that sponsored FEDEFUTBOL, while collecting a multi-million dollar termination fee.

Mimo’s attorney, Barry Kingham, said the US company agreed to pay that fee. Reuters said that although prosecutors did not name the US company, the sponsorship deal matched the description of one announced in 2015 with New Balance. Prosecutors said Mimo shareholder Moises Zebede did not inform the US company about the bribe, and told Li not to disclose it as well.

Prosecutors said Li received more than $300,000 of the agreed-upon bribe before he was arrested in May 2015 in Zurich, as part of the initial wave of arrests that sparked the wide-ranging prosecutions into corruption in football.

Li pleaded guilty to the offences in 2016. In April 2017, he was banned for life by the adjudicatory chamber of the independent Ethics Committee of world football’s governing body, Fifa. On October 7, 2016, Li pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering conspiracy, one count of wire fraud, and one count of wire fraud conspiracy.