Witness in U.S. FIFA trial describes
off-books payments to soccer officials
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[November 21, 2017]
By Mica Rosenberg and Brendan Pierson
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A government witness
in the U.S. corruption trial related to soccer's world-governing body
FIFA testified on Monday about millions of dollars paid to former soccer
officials in exchange for broadcasting and sponsorship rights for
international tournaments, all logged in a secret spreadsheet.
The witness, Santiago Pena, said he was a financial manager at the
Argentina-headquartered sports marketing firm Full Play from 2009 to
2015 and kept an Excel file which he presented in court. It detailed
payments made to what he said were eight soccer officials from the South
American soccer governing body CONMEBOL
Each of the officials was given a code name in the spreadsheet of
different car brands, Pena testified in Brooklyn federal court.
"Honda" was Juan Angel Napout, former president of Paraguay's soccer
federation, and "Fiat" was Manuel Burga, former president of Peru's
soccer federation, Pena said. The two men are among the defendants in
the trial, along with Jose Maria Marin, former president of Brazil's
soccer federation. All three have pleaded not guilty.
Pena said the payments were kept off the books of the company and were
paid out over time, to "get influence and get loyalty from the
The payments included cash, wire transfers and, in the case of Napout,
Paul McCartney tickets and a rental house in Uruguay worth tens of
thousands of dollars, Pena said.
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Former head of Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) Jose Maria
Marin, arrives for opening arguments of the FIFA bribery trial at
the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse in New York, U.S., November 13,
2017. REUTERS/Darren Ornitz
They also included a commitment of $750,000 to former president of
the Venezuelan soccer federation Rafael Esquivel, code-named "Benz,"
for "Q2022." Pena said that stood for the 2022 World Cup tournament
in Qatar, but that he did not know the purpose of those payments.
Esquivel has pleaded guilty to U.S. corruption charges.
He said he was instructed about the amounts and details of the
payments by his bosses - the owners of Full Play, Argentine
nationals Hugo Jinkis and his son Mariano. The two are among the 42
people and entities charged by the United States in the probe.
In the afternoon, under cross-examination by Napout's lawyer, Silvia
Pinera, Pena said he had no direct knowledge of any payments to
Napout and never spoke to him directly about bribe payments.
Pinera's cross-examination is expected to continue on Tuesday,
followed by cross-examination by Burga's and Marin's lawyers.
(Reporting by Mica Rosenberg and Brendan Pierson in New York;
Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
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