BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) - A federal jury convicted two former soccer officials from South America on Friday of corrupting FIFA, the sport's international governing body.
Jose Maria Marin, 85, of Brazil, and Juan Angel Napout, 59, of Paraguay, had each been president once of his country’s soccer association. Their convictions mark a new victory for U.S. prosecutors who brought a sweeping indictment two years ago against more than 40 people on similar charges.
After six days of deliberations, however, the jury's work is still incomplete. They must return Tuesday morning to continue deliberations on a third co-defendant, 60-year-old Manuel Burga of Peru, who is charged with violating federal anti-racketeering law.
Marin and Napout were both convicted Friday of this charge as well as several counts of wire-fraud conspiracy. On two additional counts of money laundering, Napout was acquitted and Marin convicted. Marin faced an additional count of money-laundering conspiracy of which he was acquitted.
Together with Burga, the defendants are the only indicted FIFA officials who fought the charges against them after they were extradited to Brooklyn.
Their five-week trial kicked off about a month after the first sentencing in the sweeping U.S. indictment: Hector Trujillo, the former general secretary of Guatemalan soccer federation Fenafutg, was sentenced to eight months after pleading guilty to wire fraud.
When Burga, Marin and Napout's trial opened in mid-November, dramatic allegations of witness intimidation quickly came to the fore, and the theatrics escalated from there. Multiple millionaires were called to the witness stand, and the evidence record ballooned with photographs of private planes, group dinners and a luxury apartment in the Uruguay beach resort city of Punta del Este.
The 12-person jury began deliberating on Dec. 15. With Christmas around the corner, news of the verdict Friday came about an hour before U.S. District Judge Pamela Chen was set to discharge the jury early for a three-day weekend.
All three defendants had been free on bond pending the trial, but Chen remanded Napout and Marin into federal custody after the verdict this afternoon. “When that [trial] is over, it’s over, and the incentives change,” she said.
Napout, ranked as the most powerful of the three on trial, seemed to have lost some of his confidence. After the verdict was read, he exchanged a long look across the courtroom with his wife, who has been observing the trial with couple's four adult children.
Prosecutors balked at an offer for Napout's wife to surrender her passport if Judge Chen would keep Napout free ahead of sentencing.
“The risk of flight is at its zenith," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Sam Nitze.
Defense attorney Silvia Pinera-Vasquez likewise failed to keep Napout's bail in place for the Christmas weekend.
Chen said she must find “clear and convincing evidence” that defendants do not pose a risk of flight.
“I don’t find that the defendants have met that standard," she said, emphasizing the "very significant potential sentences" that the defendants face, as well as their conduct and what she knows about their resources.
Recycling a point from his closing arguments, Marin's attorney Charles Stillman emphasized that the Brazilian defendant is turning 86 in a few months.
“I come back to age, I come back to health," said Stillman, an attorney with the firm Ballard Spahr.