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The former heads of Brazil’s soccer federation and South American soccer were convicted of accepting millions of dollars in bribes from sports-marketing companies for the media and marketing rights to professional tournaments, in a setback for organisers of the world’s most popular sport. The U. S. verdict came in the first case to go to trial in a corruption crackdown that began with a predawn raid at a luxury hotel in Zurich in 2015. The convictions follow guilty pleas from 24 people tied to FIFA, international soccer’s governing association. Fifteen others who’ve been charged are fighting extradition to the U. S. Juan Angel Napout, 59, a Paraguayan who was president of CONMEBOL, South American soccer’s governing body, and Jose Maria Marin, 85, the former head of Brazil’s soccer federation, were convicted by a federal jury in Brooklyn, New York. Jurors couldn’t reach a verdict Friday on Manuel Burga, 60, a Peruvian soccer official, and will return next week to continue deliberating. Napout and Marin were found guilty of wire fraud and racketeering conspiracies and immediately jailed by U.
S. District Judge Pamela Chen. Marin, who had been residing in a $3.5 million apartment in New York’s Trump Tower, was also convicted of a money laundering conspiracy. The pair were acquitted of some counts.“The defendants at this point have every reason to flee, now that they’ve heard the verdict,” Chen said. Under federal sentencing guidelines, the two likely face at least 10 years in prison, she said. Prosecutors called almost 30 witnesses over six weeks, including former sports-marketing executives who gave jurors an inside look into FIFA’s seamier side. They said that from 2010 until 2016 Napout accepted at least $10.5 million in payoffs, Burga got $4.4 million and Marin collected $6.6 million. Jurors began their deliberations a week ago. Alejandro Burzaco, the government’s star witness and chief of sports-marketing company Torneos y Competencias SA, told jurors he paid at least 30 people more than $160 million to secure broadcasting rights to South American tournaments and World Cup matches in 2026 and 2030. A former Citigroup Inc. banker who recalled facts and conversations in precise detail, Burzaco testified that the defendants were among at least six soccer officials who accepted payoffs.