By Paul Nicholson
November 7 – Jury selection began yesterday in the trial of three South American football officials arrested as part of the FIFA corruption scandal charged with racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, and money laundering conspiracy.
Highest-profile defendant is Jose Maria Marin (pictured right), 85, former president of Brazil’s FA (CBF) who is on trial alongside Juan Angel Napout, 59, former president of the Paraguayan FA, and Manuel Burga, former Peruvian FA president.
If convicted, they will be sentenced by Judge Pamela Chen with the most serious charges each carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years.
The first stage of jury selection is taking place from a pool of 200 potential jurors. The juror names will be kept secret and the jurors will be sequestered during the trial. The trial is being held in a ceremonial courtroom closed to the press, with media admitted only into overflow rooms.
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.
However, prosecutors said that there was evidence of attempts to tamper with witnesses.
The trial is expected to last weeks with prosecutors expected to present 350,000 pages of evidence.
A banner outside the court read: ‘USA help us to arrest the corrupt Brazilians of our soccer administration. Jail on them’.
Of the 42 individuals indicted by the US in the corruption scandal, 24 others have already pleaded guilty while the rest are either fighting extradition or face similar charges in their home countries.
So far Judge Pamela Chen of the Eastern District federal court in Brooklyn has sentenced one other football official, former Guatemalan general secretary Hector Trujillo to 8 months in prison and a $450,000 fine, and Costas Takkas, an associate of former CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb, to 15 months in prison (taking into account the 10 months he spent locked up in Switzerland) and a share of $3 million in reparation to the Carbbean Football Union for lost commercial revenue from their rights.
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