Corruption trial begins in NYC for three ex-FIFA officials

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José Maria Marin, 85, former head of Brazil's football federation, Juan Ángel Napout, 59, the Paraguayan who was president of South American confederation Conmebol, and Manuel Burga, 60, the former president of the Peruvian football federation, have all denied multiple counts of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering. US attorney Keith Edelman said in court, arguing they "did it year after year, tournament after tournament, bribe after bribe".

Prosecution and defence lawyers opened the FIFA corruption trial on Monday, two and a half years after the United States unveiled the largest graft scandal in the history of world football. All have pleaded not guilty.

Three former South American football officials have gone on trial in the United States accused of corruption. "Some of these officials had other reasons to celebrate, they had agreed to receive millions of dollars in bribes regarding the tournament". Hector Trujillo was jailed for eight months after pleading guilty to wire fraud and conspiracy after accepting nearly US$200,000 (£150,000) in bribes from a sports marketing company.

Charles Stillman, an attorney for Marin, said his client "is an innocent man" and although "he was on the field" he was "not playing the game".

Prosecutors haven't disclosed the names of their cooperators because of attempts, they say, to intimidate witnesses.

"These defendants cheated the sport in order to benefit themselves".

Defense attorney Silvia Pinera accused the government of building its case on the testimony of corrupt soccer officials who are seeking leniency in their own cases stemming from a sprawling investigation of Federation Internationale de Football Association.

"Marin was not one of them". "He was kind of like the youngster standing off to the side, picking up daisies and looking around while others are running full steam ahead".

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"We don't dispute that a lot of aspects of worldwide soccer are corrupt".

FIFA's main job is to organize and run the World Cup soccer tournament, next happening mid-summer 2018 in Russian Federation. "But your one duty is to decide whether Juan was involved", said Napout's lawyer, Silvia Pinera.

Bruce Udolf, for Burga, said: 'The people that the government have laid down with are some of the most despicable, corrupt people on earth'.

"It can make someone quite creative when it comes to describing corruption".

The trial is taking place in NY and is expected to last up to six weeks as prosecutors have called dozens of witnesses to testify and present 350,000 pages of evidence.

U.S. District Judge Pamela Chen said jurors will be anonymous and driven to and from court under guard, in part because of government concerns over the press coverage in Latin America.

Around two dozen defendants have already pleaded guilty, and two of them were last month sentenced to jail - Guatemalan ex-soccer official Hector Trujillo to eight months and British-Greek accountant Costas Takkas to 15 months.

While the USA investigation did not indict ex-FIFA president Sepp Blatter, he was thrown out of the sport in 2015 after FIFA's ethics committee found him guilty of making an improper two million Swiss franc ($2.1 million) payment to then-UEFA chief Michel Platini. As the probe widened, Joseph "Sepp" Blatter, president for 17 years, and other Federation Internationale de Football Association officials were ousted and the sport was forced to confront allegations that executives pocketed more than $150 million in payoffs in return for media broadcasting rights.