A jury in New York has found two South American ex-FIFA chiefs guilty of corruption. They are Jose Maria Marin, former head of Brazil’s Football Confederation and Juan Angel Napout, former head of Paraguayan football.
And promptly, the once-powerful pair were remanded into custody.
The panel will return after Christmas to deliberate on the fate of a third defendant, former Peru boss Manuel Burga.
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 defense 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 years.
“I don’t think there are real reasons for appeal,” said Chen.
Manuel Burga: to know fate next week
But the jury said they had not yet reached consensus on Burga, 60, who faces one count of racketeering conspiracy. 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.