US prosecutors accused three former South American football administrators of taking millions of dollars in bribes as part of a web of endemic corruption at the heart of the sport’s governing body, Fifa.
José Maria Marin, the 85-year-old former head of Brazil’s football federation, Juan Ángel Napout, the 59-year-old Paraguayan who was president of South American football’s governing body Conmebol, and Manuel Burga the 60-year-old former president of the Peruvian football federation, have denied multiple counts of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering.
Their trial is the first in a sprawling federal corruption investigation of Fifa that was announced in May 2015 after several officials were arrested during a morning raid on a hotel in Zurich. Since then over 40 officials and marketing executives have been charged by US authorities with 23 already pleading guilty.
The trial will focus on how marketing and sponsorship rights were sold for two major South American tournaments, the Copa América and the Copa Libertadores, as well as the Brazilian domestic tournament Copa do Brasil. The officials are accused of regularly taking six figure bribes.
The trial is expected to last up to six weeks. All three defendants face extensive prison time if found guilty.