For six weeks or so I have followed the FIFAGATE TRIAL with NY Post and other media in Brooklyn at The Eastern District of New York courtroom of judge Pamela Chen. Five weeks of testimony and 5 days of jury deliberation. Just before Christmas the jury returned verdicts of GUILTY on two of three South American former soccer officials.
GUILTY...Jose Maria Marin, the 85 year old former Brazilian Football Federation president,.. GUILTY.. Juan Napout..of Paraguay. SHOCKED, they were immediately put in handcuffs by plain clothed US Marshalls who showed their official badges and led them down the stairs and straight to prison for Christmas with cheese sandwiches. They had been under house arrest in their luxurious Manhattan apartments. The jury asked for more time to consider the one count of racketeering concerning the third defendent , 60 year old Manuel Burga, former Peruvian Football President.
The day after Christmas the jury returned and was deadlocked and he was found NOT GUILTY, had his ankle tag removed and was waiting for his passport to be returned before flying home to Lima. US prosecutors had sought to expose a culture of greed and corruption among the powerful politicians in FIFA.. " God Bless America, thats all I can say" . He said that he would go home and resume his career as a lawyer, after interrupting it with 15 years as a football executive. I wonder which was the most lucrative?? "My history in soccer is finished" he said, " I'll go back to the law".
All three had been arrested in 2015. Prosecutors accused them of agreeing to take millions of dollars in bribes from businessmen seeking to lock up lucrative media rights or influence hosting rights for the FIFA World Cup and other FIFA controlled tournaments. Burga was the first of over 40 official and entities to be aquitted into investigations that uncovered hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks. 24 have so far already pleaded GUILTY and many helped the prosecutors in the hope of a reduced sentence.
FIFA has now stated that they will try to recover millions in ill gotten gains. Burga's lawyer Bruce Udolf stated " I would submit to you that never has more been made of less evidence".
Earlier in the trial Burga unnerved the government's star witness, a former marketing executive from Argentina, by directing a threatening gesture, slicing his fingers across his throat. His lawyer said that he was just scratching himself. Neverless, the judge tightened his house arrest conditions. Also during the trial one Argentinian businessman who had admitted guilt walked in front of a train in the suburbs of Buenos Aires and committed suicide.
One VERY BAD GUY who " escaped the noose", was FIFA's No 2 for many years, JULIO HUMBERTO GRONDONA former President of The Argentinian FA from 1979 until his death in 2014. From 1988 he was Vice President of FIFA.. and IN CHARGE OF FINANCE...HORRIBLE !! He was an anti-semite and long time anti British ....beside being a crook !!. He wanted part of every tournament kick back and received $1 million from Qatar for his vote for the 2022 FIFA WORLD CUP.. and probably not the only person who was successfully bribed.
In 2003 in response to a journalist's question about refereeing standards in Argentina he said " I do not believe a Jew can ever be a referee at this level. It's hard work and you know, Jews don't like hard work". Jews don't like it when it gets rough". In 2014 his son Humberto was found guilty of reselling World Cup tickets.
I briefly met him in the AFA office on a quick visit in the mid '80s. During my first visit at the FIFA 1978 World Cup I went to matches in Buenos Aires, Cordoba and Mendoza. The VERY BEST referee at the 1970, 1978 and 1982 World Cups was my very good friend ABRAHAM KLEIN, a Jewish and Israeli referee whose house in Haifa I was a guest in for a week many years ago. I first net him at the Camino Real hotel in Guadalajara, Mexico in 1970 where he was in a nearby room. He was chosen by referee boss Ken Aston to referee the England v Brazil group match at Estadio Jalisco, which the Brazilians won 1-0 , due to his superb fitness in the humidity and altitude, and there was also the famous Gordon Banks save from Pele. I was there.!!
Late news today: VITALY MUTKO, Russia 2018 boss has stepped down from that role and also his position as President of the Russian Football Union..from the latter position for six months while he contests his lifetime ban by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), for his role in the Russian state-run doping scandal at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games. He plans to file his appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport next Tuesday in Lausanne.
He has been replaced as head of the World Cup Organizing Committee by Alexei Sorokin. Mutko still retains his position as deputy Prime Minister.