International review Investigation

Two Found Guilty Of Soccer Corruption; Will Jack Warner Now Face US Justice In 2018?

Former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner outside the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, on December 4, 2015, following the hearing of his legal challenge to avert being extradited to the United States. Source: ALVA VIARRUEL/AFP/Getty Images.

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Two of the defendants in the soccer corruption trial spent Christmas in jail after being found guilty of multiple charges just prior to the holiday break.

Juan Ángel Napout and José Maria Marin now await sentencing by Judge Pamela Chen and both face up to 20 years in jail.

Juan Angel Napout (59), a former head of the Paraguay Football Association and president of CONMEBOL the regional governing body in South America was found guilty of two wire fraud charges and one of being part of a racketeering conspiracy. Napout was accused of accepting $10.5M in bribes over a five year period.

Jose Maria Marin (85), a former president of the Brazil soccer federation and a former governor of São Paulo, was found guilty of six charges relating to money laundering and involvement in wire fraud conspiracy. Marin was accused of accepting bribes of $6.55M.

The jury deliberations started on December 15 after the judge walked the jury members through 54 pages of instructions.  The jury did not arrive at a verdict in the case against Manuel Burga (60), the former president of the Peru Football Association, who was accused of soliciting $4.4 million in bribes.

The jury is expected to continue its deliberations on charges faced by Burga after the Christmas break.

At one stage in the trial, it was claimed that Burga made a cut throat motion during the testimony of the prosecution’s key witness Alejandro Burzaco.

Burzaco was the key witness for the prosecution during the trial that started in November. Burzaco is the former head of an Argentine sports marketing company called Torneos y Competencias (also known as TyC or Torneos) and was originally charged with paying out over $110M in bribes to secure media rights.

Burzaco was fired by TyC in June 2015, just five weeks after he fled Switzerland ahead of pursuing law enforcement agents. Later the same month Burzaco surrendered to Italian authorities.

Burzaco claims to have received death threats since he agreed to cooperate with US authorities.

With the two guilty verdicts, 25 of more than 40 former soccer and marketing officials have now pleaded or been found guilty. The extensive investigation cumulated in raids on hotels in Switzerland in 2015 ahead of a high-level FIFA meeting.

Some of the accused managed to stay one step ahead of the raid and fought, or are still fighting, extradition to the United States.

A former president of CONMEBOL for 27 years, Nicolás Leoz (89), lost his fight in a Paraguay court in mid-November. Testimony included multiple references to Leoz’s alleged involvement in systemic corruption relating to the award of the right to host the 2022 World Cup Final.

The award was made to Qatar.

CONMEBOL president Nicolas Leoz flanked by CBF president Maria Marin (L) and Paraguayan Football Association president Juan Angel Naput. Leoz announced his resignation to the FIFA executive committee and to the CONMEBOL presidency due to health problems. Source: NORBERTO DUARTE/AFP/Getty Images.

Jack Warner is appealing his extradition to the United States and it is expected that the appeal will be heard in Trinidad and Tobago in January.

Warner ran CONCACAF (the regional governing body covering soccer in the Caribbean and North and Central America) as a fiefdom for 21 years and he faces a charge relating to a $10M bribe that bought his vote in favor of South Africa hosting to 2010 World Cup Finals.

Two other high-ranking officials, former Brazil federation presidents Marco Polo Del Nero and Ricardo Teixeira, remained holed up in Brazil secure in the knowledge that there is no extradition treaty between their home country and the United States.

Former FIFA vice-president Julio Grondona would also have faced charges relating to the award of various World Cups had he not died in 2014.

FIFA has taken the position that it too has been the “victim of a fraud” and as such, will pursue civil actions against those found guilty of charges relating to “FIFA business.”

That, however, is the easy part.

The real dilemma for FIFA is how to proceed regarding the allegations made in the New York court of Qatar paying for 2022 World Cup votes.