FIFA Trial Opens With References to Cash Drops and Bag Men

FIFA Trial Opens With References to Cash Drops and Bag Men


Of the more than 40 defendants charged by American authorities in the far-reaching case, Mr. Burga, Mr. Napout and Mr. Marin are the only ones who have been extradited to the United States and who continue to maintain their innocence.

The first defendant to be sentenced in the case, a former Guatemalan judge, received eight months in prison last month.

According to prosecutors, Mr. Napout accepted bribes in cash; Mr. Marin received them in a New York bank account; and Mr. Burga — wary of accepting money while under criminal investigation in Peru — accepted promises of future payments. But lawyers for the defendants contended Monday that the government, while effective at uncovering corruption, had wrongly implicated their clients.

“What this case is about is a government concluding that everyone involved at high levels of soccer is dirty,” said Silvia B. Piñera-Vazquez, a lawyer for Mr. Napout. “The F.B.I. and the I.R.S. did a wonderful job,” she added, referencing what she called at least “tens of millions of dollars” spent on the federal investigation. “But they didn’t find one wire transfer of dirty money into Juan’s accounts.”

Bruce L. Udolf, a lawyer for Mr. Burga, similarly credited the government for its efforts. “But they got too ambitious, used too broad a brush,” he said, distancing Mr. Burga from the scores of defendants who have entered guilty pleas in the case and the witnesses poised to testify against the three defendants in coming weeks.

In introducing the case to the anonymous jury — chosen last week after documented attempts at intimidation — Mr. Edelman, who was among the prosecutors who worked on the latest charges announced against the Bonanno organized crime family earlier this year, opened with an anecdote closer to home for the jury of New Yorkers. He described a party at the St. Regis Hotel in Miami, celebrating a South American tournament brought to the United States through coordinated bribe payments.

The defense lawyers — emphasizing the sprawling web of relationships in international soccer and the long arm of American justice — urged the jury not to jump to conclusions about their clients simply because of their associations with convicted criminals.

“If you’ve ever watched kids playing soccer, there are always one or two, they’re standing there but they’re not really playing,” Charles Stillman, Mr. Marin’s lawyer, said, likening his 85-year-old client to a clueless bystander. “He is like the youngster on the side picking up daisies.”

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