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Prosecutors pushing for conviction in FIFA trial

NEW YORK: US prosecutors urged a New York jury to convict three wealthy South American former football officials “on all counts” in the face of “overwhelming” evidence, delivering closing arguments at the FIFA corruption trial.
“The three defendants thought the payouts would last forever but they won’t,” assistant US attorney Kristin Mace told the federal court in Brooklyn, a day after the defendants declined to take the stand in their own defense.
“They got caught. And it’s time that they are held accountable.
“The evidence is overwhelming,” Mace added, urging the jury to declare the trio “guilty on all counts.”
The defendants are Jose Maria Marin, ex-head of Brazil’s Football Confederation; former FIFA Vice-President Juan Angel Napout, who was elected president of CONMEBOL in 2014; and Manuel Burga, who led soccer in Peru until 2014.
They are charged with racketeering, wire fraud and money-laundering conspiracies.
But while the defense admits widespread corruption at FIFA, it insists there is no evidence that their clients were paid bribes with jurors expected to begin deliberations with the trial already into a fifth week.
“There was not one penny that they could trace to Juan, not one single transfer,” Napout’s lawyer John Pappalardo said Wednesday.
“There’s no evidence. All they have is theories,” he said. “Those theories are not enough.”
Burga’s lawyer Bruce Udolf trode a similar line. “Burga never got any money at all,” he said. “He didn’t get a dime. The government went too far in this case.”
Marin’s elegantly dressed wife began to pray in the gallery, her eyes moistening and her hands clutching a rosary as she heard the accusations against her husband.
Mace said the defendants were blinded by greed into accepting a combined total of $21.45 million in bribes — Napout $10.5 million, Marin $6.55 million and Burga $4.4 million — in exchange for bestowing television and marketing rights for ­matches.
She showed the court bank records, company documents and reminded jurors of testimony from throughout the trial, which comes two and a half years after the United States unveiled the largest graft scandal in the history of world football.
“This is a unique look inside a broad and powerful internal conspiracy,” said Mace.
“A conspiracy to enrich the soccer elite of the world, bribe after bribe, year after year at the expense of the organization they were supposed to serve.”
But the defendants are just three of the 42 officials and marketing executives, not to mention three companies, indicted in an exhaustive 236-page complaint detailing 92 separate crimes and 15 corruption schemes to the tune of $200 million.
If convicted, they risk up to 20 years behind bars for the most serious offenses.