December 14 – The three former South American football powerbrokers who have been on trial in New York for their alleged roles in the FIFA-gate scandal lined their pockets with millions of dollars of bribes for more than six years, prosecutors argued in their closing arguments yesterday.
“[They] took money for themselves instead of putting the interests of the soccer organizations first,” Assistant US Attorney Kristin Mace told the court.
Defence lawyers claimed there was not enough evidence to convict José Maria Marin, Juan Angel Napout and Manuel Burga, ex-presidents of the Brazilian, Paraguayan and Peruvian federations respectively who have been in the dock for five weeks and all deny accusations of racketeering, wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering.
The jury was shown an undated portrait of the defendants superimposed with the eye-watering amounts of bribes they are accused of taking from 2010 to 2016 in exchange for gaining lucrative broadcasting rights deals: $4.4 million for Burga, $6.55 million for Marin and $10.5 million for Napout, who was also head of South American confederation Conmebol.
Napout’s lawyer agreed US investigators had uncovered widespread corruption in international football but argued that the trial proved the guilt not of the defendants but of those sports marketing executives who had previously pleaded guilty and struck plea bargain deals to testify for the government.
Prosecutors “were overconfident in their investigation and they were just too trusting of their co-operators,” charged John Pappalardo. “They say cash is king, but where did it go?” Pappalardo said. “There was not one penny they could trace to Juan.”
Bruce Udolf, the lawyer for Burga, argued that the state’s star witness, Argentine businessman Alejandro Burzaco, should be viewed as the scheme’s main culprit. “He’s made a fortune paying off people and cheating them,” said Udolf.
Closing arguments are expected to conclude today.
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