Corrupt world of FIFA

November 21, 2017
Juan Angel Napout, center, arrives at federal court in the Brooklyn borough of New York, last Thursday. He is one of three former South American football officials who are going on trial in a US case highlighting widespread corruption in the sport's governing body

 

Hour after hour in a New York City courtroom, the schemes to corrupt world football are spilling out.

The millions of dollars in 'inducements' to secure contracts to televise matches. The bribes sought by FIFA executives with the power to determine World Cup hosts. The death threats for cooperating with investigators.

It took the intervention of the US Department of Justice to disrupt years of embezzlement by officials who abused roles in the global football governing body, FIFA, to enjoy a gilded lifestyle. Two years after a sprawling investigation of FIFA led to waves of arrests that shook football, the trial of three men is under way and about to enter its second week.

Though the trial in Brooklyn is dealing with corruption allegations before new FIFA leaders emerged in 2016, officials still prominent in football are not untouched by the evidence already heard in court particularly relating to the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.

Here is a look at the talking points from the first week of the trial:

 

ON TRIAL

 

The three men on trial pleaded not guilty to charges they took part in a 24-year scheme involving at least $150 million in bribes paid by marketing firms in exchange for lucrative broadcasting and hosting rights for prestigious tournaments:

- Jose Maria Marin (Brazil): Former president of the Brazilian Football Federation arrested in a raid on a hotel in Zurich in May 2015.

- Juan Angel Napout (Paraguay): Swept up in a second wave of arrests at the same hotel in Zurich in December 2015. As president of the South American soccer confederation CONMEBOL, Napout was portraying himself as an agent of reform who could clean up FIFA before being indicted.

- Manuel Burga (Peru): Former Peruvian soccer federation president detained along with Napout at the Baur au Lac hotel close to FIFA's Swiss headquarters.

 

STAR WITNESS

 

More than 40 other officials, business executives, and entities have been charged. Many have pleaded guilty, hoping to receive reduced sentences, including Alejandro Burzaco, the former head of the Argentine sports marketing company Torneos y Competencias, who is a star witness for the prosecution.

 

QATAR WORLD CUP

 

No decision has proved more toxic for FIFA than the 2010 vote that handed the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. The bid has been stained by suspicion of wrongdoing for years, although FIFA has been unable to uncover evidence it says would warrant stripping the Middle East of its first World Cup.

Usually quick to defend their integrity, the Qataris have been silent on the fresh claims of vote-buying divulged in court.

According to Burzaco, three South Americans were among 22 FIFA executive committee voters who took million-dollar bribes to support Qatar, which beat out the United States in the final round of voting in December 2010.

A rule-breaking voting pact between Qatar and the Spain-Portugal campaign in the 2018 bidding twice investigated by FIFA's ethics committee but unproven was given fresh credence in court by Burzaco, a trusted associate to the late former FIFA senior vice-president Julio Grondona, to whom he channeled bribes worth millions.

Grondona was the most influential of South America's trio of FIFA voters, and would surely have been indicted but for his death in July 2014.

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