Jury deliberates evidence against trio in Fifa graft trial

Former president of the Peruvian Football Association Manuel Burga, one of three defendants in the FIFA scandal on trial in Brooklyn, arrives at the Federal Courthouse in Brooklyn on Dec 14.
Former president of the Peruvian Football Association Manuel Burga, one of three defendants in the FIFA scandal on trial in Brooklyn, arrives at the Federal Courthouse in Brooklyn on Dec 14.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK • The Fifa trial ended on Thursday, ending a month-long saga in federal court in Brooklyn as US prosecutors laid out charges of corruption.

"You've seen a lot of paper, some of it quite complex," Samuel Nitze, an assistant US attorney, told the 12 jurors while urging them to find the three former South American sports officials guilty.

"There are cases that present mysteries to be solved," Nitze said. "This is not one of them."

The judge then walked the jury through 54 pages of instructions before sending the group off to deliberate whether the three men should be convicted of various conspiracies - racketeering, money laundering and wire fraud.

Starting last month, the government introduced voluminous evidence collected over more than six years.

That evidence included bank records, hotel records, e-mails, transcripts of covertly recorded conversations, photographs of men boarding private planes and four different accounting ledgers detailing what cooperating witnesses described as bribe payments made to each of the three defendants.

The trio are Juan Angel Napout, the former top football official of South America who is accused of accepting US$10.5 million (S$14.1 million) in bribes since 2010, Manuel Burga, the former top football official of Peru and accused of soliciting US$4.4 million, and Jose Maria Marin, the former top football official of Brazil and accused of accepting US$6.55 million.

The United States announced its case focused on Fifa in 2015, years into its far-reaching investigation that has been aided by various foreign governments.

More than 40 defendants have been charged in the case, and more than half of them have pleaded guilty to their parts in a racketeering conspiracy that diverted money from global football and into the pockets of officials who have admitted they awarded lucrative media and marketing contracts to businessmen who paid them bribes.

The three officials on trial have been unrelenting in fighting the charges against them. Through their lawyers, each insisted during the last month that they had been wrongly caught up in an indisputable web of corruption.

"These officials were in place to do an honest and fair job," M. Kristin Mace, another prosecutor, told the jury. "They didn't do so."

Lawyers for the three defendants have maintained that the evidence was too thin to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.

If convicted, each of the charges against the men carries a possible 20 years in prison.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 16, 2017, with the headline 'Jury deliberates evidence against trio in Fifa graft trial'. Print Edition | Subscribe