US prosecutors urge conviction in FIFA corruption trial

Jose Maria Marin, Juan Angel Napout and Manuel Burga are on trial in the FIFA corruption scandal.

The Federal Courthouse in Brooklyn, where the three men are on a trial in the Fifa corruption scandal.   -  AFP

US prosecutors urged a New York jury to convict three wealthy South American former soccer officials “on all counts” in the face of “overwhelming” evidence, delivering closing arguments at the FIFA corruption trial.

“The three defendants thought the payouts would last forever but they won’t,” assistant US attorney Kristin Mace told the federal court in Brooklyn, a day after the defendants declined to take the stand in their own defense.

“They got caught. And it’s time that they are held accountable. The evidence is overwhelming,” Mace added, urging the jury to declare the trio “guilty on all counts.”

Read: Jury selection begins in FIFA corruption trial

The defendants are Jose Maria Marin, ex-head of Brazil’s Football Confederation, former FIFA vice president Juan Angel Napout, who was elected president of CONMEBOL in 2014, and Manuel Burga, who led soccer in Peru until 2014. They are charged with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies.

Mace said they were blinded by greed into accepting a combined total of USD 21.45 million in bribes -- Napout USD 10.5 million, Marin USD 6.55 million and Burga USD 4.4 million -- in exchange for bestowing television and marketing rights for soccer matches.

Mace showed the court bank records, company financial documents and reminded jurors of testimony from cooperating witnesses throughout the trial. Now into a fifth week, the trial began on November 6, two and a half years after the United States unveiled the largest graft scandal in the history of world soccer.

“This is a unique look inside a broad and powerful internal conspiracy,” said Mace. “A conspiracy to enrich the soccer elite of the world, bribe after bribe, year after year at the expense of the organization they were supposed to serve.”

Marin’s elegantly-dressed wife began to pray in the gallery, her eyes moistening and her hands clutching a rosary as she heard the accusations against her husband. If convicted, the defendants risk up to 20 years behind bars for the most serious offenses.

They are just three of the 42 officials and marketing executives, not to mention three companies, indicted in an exhaustive 236-page complaint detailing 92 separate crimes and 15 corruption schemes to the tune of USD 200 million.

Defense lawyers were to follow government prosecutors in presenting their final arguments. They have previously admitted widespread corruption at FIFA but said there was no evidence that their clients were involved. Jurors are expected to begin deliberations this week.

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