Defence lawyer calls witness at FIFA bribery trial ‘liar’
NEW YORK (AP):
A lawyer for one of three South American football officials charged in the FIFA bribery scandal labelled a key witness at their US trial a "serial liar" yesterday over accusations that his client used hand gestures in court to threaten the witness.
Prosecutors have asked the judge to revoke bail for Manuel Burga and jail him, saying he twice stared at the witness as he testified this week and ran his fingers across his throat in a slicing motion.
In arguments made yesterday with the jury gone for the day, defence attorney Bruce Udolf objected to letting the witness, Argentine former sports marketing executive Alejandro Burzaco, tell the judge what he saw from the witness stand.
"From my point of view, Mr Burzaco is a serial liar who will say anything," Udolf said.
US District Pamela Chen said she would hold another hearing next week to have Burzaco testify about the allegations of witness tampering. She also agreed that Burga, who is under house arrest, should be examined by a dermatologist to try to back up his claim that he was merely scratching a rash on his neck.
The bizarre episode came amid nearly four days of testimony by Burzaco describing how he brokered tens of millions of dollars in bribes paid to football officials in exchange for their influence in awarding lucrative broadcasting and hosting rights for the FIFA World Cup and other major football tournaments.
On trial are Burga, the former president of Peru's football federation; JosE Maria Marin, the former president of Brazil's federation; and Juan Angel Napout, ex-head of Paraguay's federation. All have pleaded not guilty to racketeering conspiracy and other charges in the sprawling investigation of FIFA, football's governing body.
Burzaco, who is cooperating with US authorities as part of a plea deal, testified that his firm gave bribes totalling US$4.5 million to Napout, US$3.6 million to Burga and US$2.7 million to Marin. He also claimed that he has been the subject of death threats in Argentina because of his cooperation against powerful football officials.