Friday, 17 November, 2017

Corrupt FIFA execs only cared about bribes: prosecutors

FIFA Trial Set to Begin in NY With the Trappings of a Mob Case Football officials on trial in New York over corruption charges
Kristine Garrett | 14 November, 2017, 13:09

The federal trial of three South American FIFA officials began in Brooklyn, New York Monday, as US prosecutors make the case that these former leaders in soccer's top governing body are guilty of corruption.

At the defense table with Marin, former president of Brazil's soccer federation, will be Manuel Burga, former president of Peru's soccer federation and Juan Ángel Napout, ex-president of the South American soccer governing body CONMEBOL and of Paraguay's soccer federation.

With witnesses threatened, documents destroyed and jurors cloaked in anonymity, the trial beginning Monday in a NY courtroom has the trappings of a grisly organized-crime prosecution. They accused the United States government of relying on the testimony of Federation Internationale de Football Association officials who had already pled guilty and cooperated with authorities in order to reduce their own sentences.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Keith Edelman highlighted the power that soccer officials wield in football-loving Latin America, saying the defendants abused that power and used "our financial system to carry out the scheme".

He singled out an event in 2014 when officials gathered at the St Regis Hotel in Miami to launch a bold plan to expand the centenary version of the Copa America and hold it in the US.

'By all appearances it's a proud moment in the history of the game. "But lurking under the surface are lies, greed and corruption". "Some of these officials had other reasons to celebrate, they had agreed to receive millions of dollars in bribes regarding the tournament".

"The defendants cheated the sport in order to line their pockets with money that should have been spent to benefit the game, not themselves", Edelman said.

"Three of those officials are here in this courtroom", he said, before introducing each of the three defendants in turn. The testimony is likely to lift the veil on a global racketeering and bribery plot that ran for more than two decades at FIFA's highest levels.

Prosecutors Monday painted three former global soccer bigwigs as rapacious predators who cared more about lining their own pockets with illegal bribes than promoting a sport they claimed to love.

The case is being heard at Brooklyn's federal court amid tight security. The jury was sworn in anonymously after attempts influence the outcome of the case were reported to the judge.

Edelman said the United States government would present evidence, derived from witness testimony, bank records, covert recordings and other documentation that proves each of the officials had received bribes. The case has fueled allegations of corruption in the awarding of World Cup tournaments to Russian Federation for 2018 and Qatar for 2022. Since then, the sport has had to confront allegations of widespread corruption and Sepp Blatter, Fifa president for 17 years, was ousted along with dozens of other officials. The officials are accused of regularly taking six figure bribes.

'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, ' says the indictment.

Marin is accused of taking bribes from a sports marketing company in return for the rights to Copa Brasil tournaments from 2015 through 2022, and of accepting bribes for the sponsorship of the Copa Libertadores, a South American club competition. Recordings appear to corroborate prosecutors' case against him.

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

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