Two former football officials convicted of taking bribes, third awaiting fate as details of FIFA corruption surface

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Associated Press

Two former South American football officials were convicted overnight of corruption charges at a US trial stemming from the FIFA bribery scandal, while deliberations will continue next week for a third official.

FILE - In these 2017 file photo, three former South American soccer officials, from left, Manuel Burga, of Peru; Jose Maria Marin, of Brazil; and Juan Angel Napout, of Paraguay, accused of accepting millions of dollars in bribes, are shown outside federal court in the Brooklyn borough of New York. The three are among the more than 40 soccer officials, businessmen and entities charged in a scandal that's shaken FIFA, soccer's governing body. (AP Photo/File)

The three former South American football officials, from left, Manuel Burga, of Peru; Jose Maria Marin, of Brazil; and Juan Angel Napout, of Paraguay.

Source: Associated Press

A federal jury in New York deliberated a week before reaching the partial verdict.

Jose Maria Marin, of Brazil, and Juan Angel Napout, of Paraguay, were convicted of the top count they faced, racketeering conspiracy. Jurors were undecided on Manuel Burga, the former president of Peru's Football federation.

The three had been arrested in 2015. Prosecutors accused them of agreeing to take millions of dollars in bribes from businessmen seeking to lock up lucrative media rights or influence hosting rights for the World Cup and other major tournaments controlled by FIFA.

Marin, the former president of Brazil's football federation, and Napout, formerly president of Paraguay's football federation and of the South American football governing body CONMEBOL, also were convicted of other charges. Both were acquitted of some lesser counts.

The trial ended up being coloured by odd twists: an unproven accusation that Burga threatened a witness; a juror booted for sleeping through testimony; word from Buenos Aires that an Argentine lawyer had committed suicide there hours after being named at the trial as a bribe-taker; and the surprise testimony of a former member of the Jonas Brothers, an American pop rock band.

Marin, Burga and Napout were among more than 40 people in the world of global football who faced criminal charges in the US in connection with what prosecutors said were schemes involving hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks. Many of the other defendants pleaded guilty.

The government's star witness, a former marketing executive from Argentina, Alejandro Burzaco, testified that he and his company arranged to pay $160 million in bribes over the course of several years until his arrest in 2015.

Some of the money was demanded by a FIFA official in exchange for helping rig a vote that gave Qatar hosting rights for the World Cup in 2022, he said.

"You've seen a lot of paper, some of it quite complex," Assistant US Attorney Sam Nitze said in closing arguments. "There are cases that present mysteries to be solved - whodunnits. This is not one of them."

Prosecutors said Burga took NZ$6.3 million in bribes, Marin took NZ$9.4 million and Napout collected NZ$15 million.

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