South American ex-football officials found guilty on corruption charges

The gavel came down on some former members of FIFA who decided to plead not guilty.

As detailed by the Guardian's Oliver Laughland, two ex-football officials were found guilty on multiple charges of corruption on Friday. Juan Angel Napout, former president of CONMEBOL and the Asociacion Paraguaya de Futbol, and Jose Maria Marin, former president of the Confederacao Brasileira de Futebol, were found guilty of racketeering and wire fraud conspiracies by a jury in New York City in the first case brought to trial as part of the United States Department of Justice's investigation of FIFA. The verdict on Manuel Burga, former president of the Federacion Peruana de Futbol, is pending.

Napout and Burga were among 16 additional FIFA officials who were indicted for racketeering conspiracy and corruption in December 2015. They were charged with racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering conspiracies in connection with a 24-year scheme to enrich themselves by corrupting international football. Marin, meanwhile, was among the nine FIFA officials who were indicted in May 2015, when the corruption scandal engulfing football's governing body started. All three defendants pleaded not guilty.

The trial lasted more than four weeks, and, per Laughland, saw 28 witnesses testify for the prosecution, including former football executives and sports marketing executives who testified against their former colleagues. Prosecutors said that a web of corrupt practice spanning several decades resulted in at least $150 million in bribes, of which Napout took $10.5 million, Marin took $6.5 million, and Burga took $4.4 million.

As explained by The Associated Press' Tom Hays, a federal jury in New York deliberated a week before reaching the partial verdict, and Napout and Marin were acquitted of some lesser counts. The odd twists that coloured the trial included the following:

  • An unproven accusation that Burga threatened a witness
  • A juror being booted for sleeping through testimony
  • Word that an Argentinian lawyer had committed suicide hours before being named as a bribe-taker
  • The surprise testimony of Kevin Jonas, a former member of the Jonas Brothers.

Regarding the racketeering conspiracy, most of the schemes alleged in the indictment relate to bribes and kickbacks by football officials from sports marketing executives in connection to various matches and tournaments, including the Copa America Centenario, the Copa America, the Copa Libertadores, and the Copa do Brasil.

South American ex-football officials found guilty on corruption charges
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