(Adds background on case)
By Brendan Pierson
NEW YORK, June 15 (Reuters) - A former banker at Julius Baer and Credit Suisse pleaded guilty on Thursday to a U.S. money laundering conspiracy charge in connection with a wide-ranging corruption probe of FIFA, the world soccer governing body.
Jorge Arzuaga, 56, of Argentina, entered his plea before U.S. District Judge Pamela Chen in the Brooklyn borough of New York as part of an agreement with prosecutors.
“I deeply regret what I did,” Arzuaga said in court. “I am ashamed.”
Arzuaga is one of more than 40 people and entities charged in the U.S. probe, in which prosecutors say soccer officials took more than $200 million in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for marketing and broadcast rights.
Arzuaga admitted that beginning in 2010, he helped arrange payments from an executive at an Argentine sports marketing firm, Torneos y Competencias, to the president of the Argentine Football Association, who was also a FIFA senior vice president.
Arzuaga did not name him, but the president of the Argentine Football Association at the time was Julio Grondona, who died in 2014.
The sports marketing executive, Alejandro Burzaco, pleaded guilty to U.S. bribery charges in 2015.
After the official’s death, Arzuaga said he helped distribute bribe money left in his account to the official’s heirs. Arzuaga said he received payments for helping with the transfers. As part of his plea, he has agreed to forfeit $1,046,000 in improper payments that he received.
Arzuaga said he helped transfer the bribes by setting up accounts at two banks where he worked. He was an employee of Credit Suisse until 2012, and at Julius Baer from 2012 until 2015.
Arzuaga was released on bail after his plea hearing. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 4.
Arzuaga has also been investigated by Swiss authorities, who are expected to announce a resolution of their own charges against him soon, U.S. prosecutors said Thursday.
Credit Suisse and Julius Baer could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday.
Julius Baer, Switzerland’s third-largest private bank, was charged last year with helping wealthy Americans dodge taxes, resulting in a deferred prosecution agreement, which requires Julius Baer to steer clear of wrongdoing for three years to ensure that the charges are eventually dismissed.
A spokesman for the bank told Reuters last week that it was cooperating in the FIFA investigation, and said there was no indication that the investigation would affect the 2016 agreement. (Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Dan Grebler and Leslie Adler)