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Prosecutor says 3 football officials made fortunes out of bribes

NEW YORK – Prosecutors in closing arguments on the first U.S. trial stemming from the FIFA corruption accused three former South American soccer officials on Wednesday, make themselves rich off a major bribery scheme, while their defense lawyers called the evidence too weak to convict.

The officers “took the money for themselves instead of the interests of the football organisations for the first time,” Assistant district Attorney of the V. S. Kristin Mace in the federal district court in New York.

The prosecutor showed the jury an undated portrait of the suspects superimposed with the total of the amounts of bribes they are accused of agreeing to the collection from 2010 to 2016 in exchange for the influencing of prices of lucrative commercial rights from the sport’s biggest tournaments: $4.4 million for Manuel Burga, $6.55 million for Jose Maria Marin and $10.5 million for Juan Angel Napout.

In his conclusion, Napout lawyer of the agreed U.S. investigators had discovered widespread corruption in international football. But he argued that the trial was successful only in proving the guilt of the sports marketing managers who testified for the government, not that of the defendants.

The plaintiffs were overconfident in their research, and they were just too trusting of their employees,” said the lawyer, John Pappalardo.

Closing arguments in the trial, now in its fifth week, were expected to conclude Thursday.

Napout is the former president of Paraguay football federation and of the South American Football association Conmebol; Burga is the former head of Peru’s soccer federation; and Marin is the former president of Brazil’s football federation. They pleaded not guilty to extortion conspiracy, wire fraud, conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy in a case that has captivated South American football fans.

Mace, in her closing argument, told jurors that sport marketing companies, the payment of bribes was a routine cost of doing business. The appointments are deliberately sabotaged a fair and open bidding for commercial contracts that can maintain the integrity of the sport and produced better deals for the football federations, she added.

“To the contract, they had to pay,” the prosecutor said. “And to avoid the competition, they had to pay.”

The prosecutors have asked for their case on the testimony of marketing executives who pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate against the defendants, secretly recorded conversations about the bribe and internal documents, including the ledgers in which the amounts paid.

On Wednesday, Mace remembered the testimony of an employee who testified on a ledger that listed the bribes for Napout as “Honda” and a listing for a Paul McCartney concert tickets worth more than $10,000.

After the defense questioned whether the McCartney concert actually took place, the government called Kevin Jonas, a former member of the pop sensation Jonas Brothers, to testify that he was present at the show on Nov. 11, 2010, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Napout took the opportunity to collect a $200,000 bribe that day, prosecutors said.

Napout the attorney argued that the prosecution had not records of a bank transfer or a large bank deposits that can prove that he was received piles of money to bribe. Nor was there any evidence that his client made extravagant purchases, he said.

“They say that” cash is king, but where did it go?” Pappalardo said. “There was not one penny that they can trace to Juan.”

The government’s star witness, Argentine businessman Alejandro Burzaco, should be seen as a scammer and the schedules main culprit, says Bruce Udolf, counsel for Burga.

“He made a fortune to pay off people and deceiving them,” the lawyer said.

The vast FIFA research has resulted in more than 40 football officials, marketing managers and organizations.

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