The gripping trial about three former South American football officials have left the world in shock of how a drama-filled plot could become so entirely surreal. The case began in 2015 when law enforcement agencies truly began their strict regime on the corruption in football.
Little did the entire world know what would unfold from the ongoing trials taking place now in the court system. Just as an intertwined corruption and scandalized story should erupt, the plot has been twisted with unforeseen actions of suicide, claims of intimidation of witnesses, and what has recently come to light, potential accusations of murder.
Since the beginning of the scandal in 2015, extradition processes have been going on ever since, which have led to the capture and charges of over forty officials and executives. Even though the corruption seems to lie even deeper than that, most officials being charged in this case have accepted the charges, pleaded guilty with high hopes of winning the favor of the judge when they were read their sentences or cut deals with prosecutors.
There are three remaining, however, with their trial in progress in the heart of New York. Former president of the Peruvian Football Association Manuel Burga, former president of the Brazilian National Football Federation Jose Maria Marin, and president of Conmebol Juan Angel Napout, have all continued to profess their innocence.
They have been charged with taking millions of dollars in bribes and being the heart of the entire corruption scandal that the world is watching. They have denied all accounts of the charges, which involve racketeering, wire fraud, and laundering.
The trial is focusing on the bribes taken from three large, important South American tournaments, called the Copa América, Copa Libertadores, and Copa do Brasil. During these three tournaments, the defendants have been accused of taking bribes ranging over six figures.
At the heart of the biggest football corruption case, there have been 42 officials, plus three international companies involved in a large and intricate scandal. This scandal dealt with accounts of 92 separate crimes, 15 schemes for corruption, and a total of 200 million dollars being handed around in shady money. This included large amounts and sums hidden in offshore accounts in Hong Kong, Switzerland itself (FIFA is located in Zurich), and the Cayman Islands.
Those who pleaded guilty did so to a multitude of different charges, three of which being racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering conspiracies. The news of the depths and how wide corruption was spread, from the heart of FIFA, shocked the world, well the whole football world. However, this case now has been introduced to the U.S., as the trial of the three pleading innocent is taking place in New York.
These sentences have been either pending, been dealt or are already being carried out. The largest of which is a sentence of 20 years of imprisonment in jail.
From the 42 officials who have pleaded guilty or accepted the charges, 24 of them have gone to negotiate and cut deals with prosecutors, obviously revoking their rights for an innocence verdict. They agreed to cooperate and confess to charges and had hoped that upon agreeing, their sentences could be diminished, or taken in a lighter way.
Two of the 24 have already been sentenced, each under two years of imprisonment. Hector Trujillo, who was a Guatemalan football official received eight months as punishment, and Costas Takkas, a British-Greek accountant received the punishment of 15 months. However, Takkas has already served ten of those months, which leaves only five left.
Those who have not been yet sentenced, but are negotiating deals with the prosecutors, including the Cayman Islands‘ Jeffrey Webb, who has been under house arrest, but has been enjoying it lavishly after receiving an amount exceeding six million dollars.
The other fifteen of the case, not counting the three on trial pleading innocence, are proceeding through various other courses of the law. They are either being charged with similar crimes to those already charged here or have been sentenced to suspension and are still fighting.
Within this trial, which has begun and is now underway, involves over 350,000 pages of evidence and a tiresome amount of witnesses. Evidence included in the trial ranged anywhere from bank records, covert recordings, and any other documentation that could give proof that these officials were taking bribes.
However in-depth the trial was planned to be, we don’t think anyone could expect what has been unraveled.
The trial has revealed accusations of major sports networks accepting and paying bribes, involving large, international channels such as Fox Sports. There have been threats of murder within the courtroom itself, during the trial, which has led to witness intimidation. There has even been one account of suicide: a former Argentine government official, who was under the accusation of receiving bribes. Last but not least, Mexico City was host to a murder, when Televisa Vice President Adolfo Lagos was shot dead.
The case is set to continue for at least five more weeks. Depending upon, of course, the evidence provided and new findings revealed during the proceedings.
The defendants, well, their attorneys, have stated that each of them does not deny corruption in the large governing body of FIFA, complete with charged bribes and wire fraud, but claim that they simply had nothing to do with it. They are pleading innocent to the fact that they are only being accused because of desperate other guilty members who needed to name names to, in essence, save their own skin. However, if found guilty, these defendants can be charged with large, extensive prison time.
There has been nothing more infuriating to watch than watching others take away the love and passion of a beautiful game and staining it with corruption and bribery. Those who make money off of such an innocent beginning is indeed cruel to see but is in fact, a reality of not only a large governing body like FIFA but also can be seen in the smallest of governing bodies and appointed officials.
As the judge in the courtroom had stated “These defendants cheated the sport in order to benefit themselves. They did it year after year, tournament after tournament, bribe after bribe”.
Directed to those who simply don’t understand the importance and impact of this case, you are not alone. The attorneys, both of the defense and prosecutors, had a difficult time to try and connect and relate the essence and importance of FIFA to the rest of the world. They attempted to assimilate to the New York courtroom, by making references about FIFA to the NFL, MLB or NBA. However to accentuate their influence, they added these words specifically: “It [Fifa] is kind of like the NFL or Major League Baseball but it’s for soccer all around the world. Here and around the world soccer is more than just a sport. It’s a passion, a way of life.”
If you are following the proceedings, please comment below on your take on the scandal, and what your opinion is on the trial. Share with friends and family so they also may follow the trial. Of course, it might take a while until the final verdict is given, but you can tune into any major news network to keep up with the proceedings.