New York jury finds 2 Ex-FIFA chiefs guilty of corruption

A jury in New York has found two South American ex-FIFA chiefs guilty of corruption. They are Jose Maria Marin, former head of Brazil’s Football Confederation and Juan Angel Napout, former head of Paraguayan football.

And promptly, the once-powerful pair were remanded into custody.

The panel will return after Christmas to deliberate on the fate of a third defendant, former Peru boss Manuel Burga.

The seven-week trial in a Brooklyn federal court exposed endemic criminal activity at the heart of the world’s most popular sport, two and a half years after the United States unveiled the largest graft scandal in the history of world soccer.

On the sixth day of deliberations, Marin, 85, was convicted on six of seven counts, and Napout, 59, on three out of five, in connection with bestowing television and marketing rights to soccer matches.

They were quickly remanded into custody, as marshals in plain clothes burst into the room to surround the men. Napout had just enough time to hand a watch, neck chain and belt to his wife, who sat in the gallery for the verdict with their children.

“The defendants are facing very significant potential sentences,” said Judge Pamela Chen, dismissing pleas from defense lawyers against immediate incarceration. Marin takes medication for depression and hypertension, his lawyer said.

Under federal regulations, Marin and Napout each face at least 10 years in prison. Each conviction carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.

“I don’t think there are real reasons for appeal,” said Chen.

But the jury said they had not yet reached consensus on Burga, 60, who faces one count of racketeering conspiracy. They will return to resume deliberations on Tuesday.

Government prosecutors indicted 42 officials and marketing executives, as well as the sports company Traffic, and detailed 92 alleged crimes to the tune of more than $200 million, but so far only these three defendants have faced trial.

Marin and Napout betrayed no emotion as they heard the verdicts.

Prosecutors said they were blinded by greed into accepting more than $17 million in bribes — Napout $10.5 million, Marin $6.55 million.

“FIFA will now take all necessary steps to seek restitution and recover any losses caused by their misconduct,” said a spokesperson, following the convictions.

But in New York, defence lawyer refused to give up.

“We are disappointed of course and we are going to continue to fight for justice, appealing until we have a final decision,” said Marin’s lawyer Julio Barbosa.

“We’re very disappointed and we are going to continue fighting to absolve Mr Napout,” added Silvia Pinera, defence lawyer for the Paraguayan.

Both were convicted of racketeering conspiracy under US law penalising criminal organisation — charges that have jailed mafia bosses — for accepting bribes in exchange for bestowing television and marketing rights.

In damning evidence, Marin, was recorded talking about taking bribes by associate turned US government cooperating witness, businessman Jose Hawilla, who wore a wire.

A jury will next week resume deliberations the fate of Manuel Burga, former president of the Peruvian Football Association, who faces one count of racketeering conspiracy.

The Brazilian was acquitted on one count of money laundering conspiracy, in relation to the Brazil Cup. He was convicted on two others, as well as of wire fraud conspiracy.

In addition to racketeering conspiracy, Napout was convicted on two counts of wire fraud conspiracy and acquitted on two counts of money laundering conspiracy.