December 15 – As the three former South American football powerbrokers who have been on trial in New York for their alleged roles in the FIFA-gate scandal nervously await the jury’s verdict, the lawyer for one of them, former Brazilian FA boss Jose Maria Marin, wound up his defence Thursday by claiming his client had little idea about the $200 million bribery and corruption scheme.
Marin “never joined in the conspiracy,” defense attorney Charles Stillman told the second day of closing arguments, with jury deliberations set to begin today. “He sits here today an innocent man.”
Marin was a mere bit-part player, said Stillman, alleging current Brazilian FA president, Marco Polo del Nero – still evading extradition back home – was far more culpable.
Marin “became (Brazilian FA) president by default,” Stillman told jurors. “Del Nero ran the show.”
Marin was one of the original Zurich Seven arrested at the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich in May 2015, and later extradited from Switzerland to the US. Del Nero, who was also in Zurich at the time for the FIFA Congress, managed to fly back to Brazil, which has no extradition treaty with the US, and has remained there ever since even though he too has been indicted.
Marin, Manuel Burga of Peru and former Conmebol chief and FIFA vice-president Juan Angel Napout have all pleaded not guilty to racketeering, money laundering and wire fraud.
Defence lawyers have argued that the trial proved the guilt not of their clients but of those sports marketing executives who had previously pleaded guilty and struck plea bargain deals to testify for the government. In particular they targeted former Argentine marketing executive Alejandro Burzaco who spent four days in the witness box detailing how his firm paid tens of millions of dollars in bribes to the defendants and other officials.
Defence attorneys claimed Burzaco was shifting the blame so he could win a reduced sentence for himself but Assistant US Attorney Sam Nitze countered that this was a deliberate tactic “because his testimony was devastating.”
Nitze added Burzaco risked further charges by lying and “had more incentive to come clean and tell the truth.”
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