The bribery trial of three South American ex-officials is to kick off in New York on Monday, two and a half years after US prosecutors unveiled the largest graft scandal in the history of world soccer.
Forty-two officials and marketing executives, and three companies were indicted in an exhaustive 236-page complaint detailing 92 separate crimes and 15 corruption schemes to the tune of $200 million.
US prosecutors announced the indictments on May 27, 2015, lifting the lid on a quarter of a century of endemic corruption in the heart of FIFA, soccer’s governing body.
Yet when jury selection begins at a federal court in Brooklyn, scheduled Monday, only three are going on trial — three fabulously wealthy and once powerful soccer officials from South America.
They are charged with racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, and money laundering conspiracy.
The most high-profile is Jose Maria Marin, 85, former president of Brazil’s Football Confederation — the sport’s organizing body in one of the premier soccer-playing nations in the world.
Since his arrest at dawn by Swiss police in a five-star Zurich hotel and extradition, he has been out on bail, living in luxury at Trump Tower, the Fifth Avenue skyscraper best known for housing the penthouse and company headquarters of the US president.
Also in the dock is former FIFA vice president Juan Angel Napout, 59, and Manuel Burga, who led soccer in Peru until 2014 and once served as a FIFA development committee member.
– 20 years –
If convicted by the jury, they will be sentenced by Judge Pamela Chen. The most serious counts each carry a maximum sentence of 20 years.
Twenty-four others have already pleaded guilty.
The rest remain in their own countries, fighting extradition or similar charges at home.
The hugely complicated trial, expected to last weeks if not months, will see prosecutors expected to present 350,000 pages of evidence and dozens of witnesses.