A US investigation into three South American football officials has begun in New York City. The accused are Jose Maria Marin, Juan Ángel Napout and Manuel Burga. They are high-ranking officials in Brazil, Paraguay and Peru, respectively; accused of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering. They have allegedly received millions of dollars in bribes in exchange for advertising opportunities and contracts to top football tournaments.
The investigation will refer to 350,000 pages of evidence of abuse from the last twenty years, and the trial is expected to last five weeks. The evidence comes from witness testimony, bank records, and secret documentation. Their trial comes on the heels of an extensive U.S. investigation into Fifa that started in 2015 and has led to the indictment of more than 40 sports executives around the world.
The men have all pled not guilty, claiming that the charges against them are products of other indicted officials seeking to lighten their punishments. They have not denied the widespread corruption throughout Fifa and other football governing bodies, but they have denied their role in it. The prosecutor, U.S. attorney Keith Edelman, began the trial by contrasting the many wonders of football with the way the three men have allegedly taken advantage of it, stating that they “cheated the sport.”
Unfortunately, these indictments have done little to change the culture of the organization, and few actual reforms have been put into place. Football remains the world’s most popular (and most profitable) sport, and it seems that officials like Marin, Napout, Burga and dozens of others have found ways to exploit it for their own gain.