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First US trial opens in Federation Internationale de Football Association corruption probe

14 November 2017

According to prosecutors, Mr. Napout accepted bribes in cash; Mr. Marin received them in a NY bank account; and Mr. Burga - wary of accepting money while under criminal investigation in Peru - accepted promises of future payments.

The three men are the first to stand trial since United States prosecutors unveiled a corruption case against soccer officials around the world more than two years ago.

Separately, prosecutors said in court filings, unnamed co-conspirators were shelling out about $1 million a year in bribes to Marin from the firm vying for sponsorship of the Copa do Brasil tournament from 2013 to 2022.

Marin is on trial for the next month and a half alongside 59-year-old Juan Angel Napout, the former president of the South American soccer confederation Conmebol, and 60-year-old Manuel Burga, a member of FIFA's development committee who controlled Peruvian soccer from 2002 to 2014. "There are drinks, press conferences but underneath the surface are lies, greed, corruption".

"These defendants cheated the sport in order to line their own pockets. and they did it year after year, tournament after tournament, bribe after bribe", Assistant U.S. Attorney Keith Edelman said in opening statements in federal court in Brooklyn.

While prosecutors have netted scores of guilty pleas from other accused co-conspirators, Marin, Napout and Burga have all pleaded not guilty to allegations of a comprehensive racketeering scheme where Federation Internationale de Football Association officials for years traded media and marketing rights to soccer events for more than $200 million in bribes.

Prosecutors say the defendants used shell companies, offshore accounts and bagmen to keep their dealings secret.

Napout's lawyers argue that the government was able to find no irregularities in his bank records, but prosecutors maintain he demanded to be paid in cash.

At another 2014 meeting involving Burzaco, the cooperating marketing executive, and other people where the bribery scheme was discussed, Burzaco made it clear he knew they were breaking the law and expressed his misgivings, the papers say of yet another recording. The 12-person jury was sworn in anonymously - a measure usually reserved for terrorism or mafia cases - after prosecutors reported attempts at witness intimidation.

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"Rather than fix the harm done to the sport and its institutions, however, these conspirators engaged in the same unlawful practices that had enriched their predecessors", it says.

'It's about time to. have it coming our way, ' he said.

Marin is the former head of Brazil's federation, and once sat on FIFA's Olympics organizing committee. "Do not convict him because others have behaved wrongly".

"That's it. That's right", Marin said.

'He was on the field but not playing the game'.

Mr Napout, from Paraguay, was the president of South America's football governing body Conmebol, as well as heading the national football federation in his country.

The three defence teams also said the prosecution was relying on the testimony of witnesses who were testifying in order to win lighter sentences for their own role in the conspiracy.

Bruce Udolf, an attorney for Burga, argued that the government had "simply gone too far" and "simply got it wrong" by charging his client, labelling the allegations "despicable".

First US trial opens in Federation Internationale de Football Association corruption probe