New York - A
US jury convicted two South American ex-soccer bosses of corruption on
Friday, the once-powerful pair swiftly remanded into custody following a
New York trial that has exposed systemic corruption at the heart of
The panel returned guilty verdicts against Jose Maria Marin, former
head of Brazil's Football Confederation and Juan Angel Napout, former
head of Paraguayan football, and will return after Christmas to
deliberate on the fate of a third defendant, former Peru boss Manuel
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 defence 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
"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
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 the defence lawyers 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
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 co-operating witness, businessman Jose
Hawilla, who wore a wire.
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
Proceedings lifted the lid on the life of privilege, luxury and
excess enjoyed by members of FIFA's executive committee - of personal
chauffeurs, private jets and "presidential treatment," luxury hotels,
meetings in idyllic resorts in the Bahamas or Mauritius, and even
cruises on the Danube for wives, children and grandchildren.
Their lawyers claimed that while there was indisputable corruption at
FIFA, nothing suggested their clients were directly involved. None of
the defendants took the stand in their own defence.
The government amassed 30 million pages of evidence and cut plea
deals with a string of culprits, including Argentinian-Italian marketing
executive Alejandro Burzaco, who testified during the trial, after
pleading guilty and agreeing to forfeit $21 million.
Of the 42 individuals indicted, 24 have pleaded guilty - two of whom
have already been sentenced by Chen. Fifteen remain in their own
countries, including Brazilian football confederation president Marco
Polo Del Nero, who was last week banned from soccer for 90 days as part
of FIFA's own investigation into corruption.