x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

World Cup referee Moreno admits drug smuggling

Byron Moreno, who officiated the controversial 2002 World Cup match between South Korea and Italy, has pleaded guilty to heroin smuggling charges.

The former World Cup referee Byron Moreno has pleaded guilty to heroin smuggling charges, the US attorney's office said.

Ecuador's Moreno, who is being held without bail, admitted one count of heroin smuggling, the spokesman Robert Nardoza said, and faces more than five years in prison if found guilty.

Moreno, 41, gained notoriety officiating a 2002 World Cup match between Italy and hosts South Korea. Italy were eliminated in extra time, and were angered by several controversial refereeing decisions.

In September 2002, Ecuadorean football officials suspended Moreno for 20 games after he added a dozen minutes of stoppage time to a match between two domestic clubs without properly recording it. He was suspended again the following year and resigned soon after that.

Moreno was arrested last September at New York's Kennedy International Airport after arriving on a commercial flight from Ecuador with bags of heroin attached to his body, US prosecutors said.

According to a complaint filed in US court, Moreno "became visibly nervous during a routine inspection and customs agents found plastic bags of heroin attached to various places on his body".