FIFA corruption trial gets late start

  • 04/08/2016

The federal judge overseeing the wide-ranging corruption case involving soccer's global governing body FIFA says a trial could begin in September or October of 2017.

US District Judge Raymond Dearie in Brooklyn, New York, said at a hearing on Wednesday that prosecutors had sought an early 2017 trial date, but given the amount of evidence still being processed that September or October was more realistic.

So far 42 individuals and entities have been charged in the case that has rocked the soccer world.

The trial would involve eight of the defendants, who are former soccer officials and marketing executives, and who were present at the hearing on Wednesday.

The judge said he wanted the case to move forward, noting the first defendant of the eight before him appeared in court in May 2015.

"At some point, we're going to have to call it," Judge Dearie said.

Assistant US Attorney Evan Norris said the government does expect to bring additional charges in the case, but he said that it was "too early to say" if additional defendants would be charged.

"Our ongoing investigation does continue. It is quite active and quite broad," Mr Norris added.

The eight defendants in court on Wednesday include former FIFA officials and executive committee members Jose Maria Marin of Brazil, Juan Angel Napout of Paraguay, Eduardo Li of Costa Rica, and Julio Rocha of Nicaragua.

The others include Miami-based sports marketing executive Aaron Davidson, Hector Trujillo, a judge from Guatemala and ex-official with its soccer federation, ex-Cayman Islands soccer official Costas Takkas, and former Venezuelan soccer official Rafael Esquivel.

Prosecutors accuse the defendants of participating in schemes involving more than US$200 million (NZ$279 million) in bribes and kickbacks, both sought and received by soccer officials for marketing and broadcast rights to tournaments and matches.

The investigation has plunged Zurich-based FIFA and the sport's regional governing bodies into an unprecedented crisis. Gianni Infantino, FIFA's newly elected president, has vowed to restore the organisation's tattered image.

To date, 16 people and two sports marketing companies have pleaded guilty in the US case. Most recently, Brayan Jimenez, a former president of Guatemala's soccer federation, pleaded guilty on Friday.