By Paul Nicholson
October 20 – A Brooklyn federal judge has granted the request by prosecutors to keep juror names secret and for the jurors to be sequestered during the trial of Jose Maria Marin, Juan Angel Napout and Manuel Burga – the former bosses of Brazilian, Paraguayan and Peruvian football – whose trial begins on November 6.
The three South Americans, who at all at various times also held high ranking positions in CONMEBOL, are the only football officials indicted in the US football corruption investigations that are in US custody and are still pleading not guilty.
Marin was arrested in the dramatic May 2015 Zurich raids by Swiss police acting on behalf of the US Department of Justice. Napout, was arrested in December 2015, again in dawn raids on the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich, while Burga, who led the Peruvian Football Federation (FPF) for 12 years until 2014, was arrested outside his home in Lima in December 2016 under an international warrant and extradited to the US in June 2016.
Lawyers for the three men argued that by granting anonymity, it would give the jurors a false impression of the seriousness of the case. They argued that unwanted attention from the media (prosecutors particularly were concerned about foreign media) or others wasn’t enough to justify partial anonymity and sequestration, saying that such measures were usually associated with mafia and terrorism cases.
But it is a mafia-style case the US Department of Justice has been building (RICO – Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) against the three, though whether they are linked to organised crime which could pose a threat to jurors is not clear.
Rumours were that there had been attempts to tamper with witnesses in the case.
U.S. District Judge Pamela Chen’s decision and its reasoning was sealed except for one paragraph saying that jurors’ names would be kept secret and they would be escorted to and from the courthouse by U.S. Marshals. She also granted prosecutors’ request to use evidence from witnesses who have said they were asked to mislead investigators, hide computers and wipe a server in the wake of the US investigations.
“These acts of obstruction are really no different than defendants’ alleged acts of bribery, wire fraud, and money laundering: they all involve non-violent acts of dishonesty, deceit, and concealment. The fact that they were allegedly directed at a different audience, i.e., law enforcement, does not make them any more serious or prejudicial,” said the statement.
Prosecutors said they have witnesses who will describe how Napout had electronic devices removed from his presidential office at CONMEBOL the morning he was arrested in Switzerland. The prosecutors say the devices were recovered more than a year later in Paraguay and evidence from them will be used against Napout.
Judge Chen said the evidence could be admitted as “general proof” of a RICO conspiracy.
Marin, Napout and Burga are accused of racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering as well as collecting bribes in exchange for commerical and broadcast rights to international matches and tournaments, including the FIFA World Cup.
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