New York – On Friday, former high-ranking soccer officials Juan Ángel Napout and José Maria Marin were convicted of racketeering conspiracy and related crimes by a federal jury in Brooklyn. The crimes of conviction related to the defendants’ participation in schemes to accept millions of dollars in bribes in exchange for the media and marketing rights to various soccer tournaments. In addition to racketeering conspiracy, Napout was also convicted of two counts of wire fraud conspiracy, and Marin was convicted of three counts of wire fraud conspiracy and two counts of money laundering conspiracy. Today, the jury found the defendant Manuel Burga, former president of the Peruvian soccer federation, not guilty of racketeering conspiracy, the one count on which he was extradited from Peru. After the jury rendered its verdict, which followed a six-week trial before United States District Judge Pamela K. Chen, Judge Chen remanded Napout and Marin into custody.
At the time of his arrest in December 2015, Napout was the president of the South American soccer confederation, known as CONMEBOL, a member of the FIFA Executive Committee, and a FIFA Vice President. He had also previously served as president of the Paraguayan soccer federation. At the time of his arrest in May 2015, Marin was the former head of the Brazilian soccer federation, known as the CBF, and a member of various FIFA standing committees. As proved at trial, the defendants and their co-conspirators accepted or agreed to accept tens of millions of dollars in bribe payments over the course of the conspiracy.
The guilty verdicts were announced by Bridget M. Rohde, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), and R. Damon Rowe, Special-Agent-in-Charge, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, Los Angeles Field Office (IRS).
“As the jury found, defendants Napout and Marin lined their own pockets with millions of dollars in bribes at the expense of the soccer organizations they represented and the people those organizations served,” said Acting United States Attorney Rohde. “Now these defendants have been brought to justice, like the others who have been convicted for corrupting a sport beloved across the world, and will face punishment for their criminal conduct. The guilty verdicts and the evidence at trial highlight the extent of the corruption and the continuing need for reform.” Ms. Rohde expressed her grateful appreciation to governments around the world, particularly the governments of Switzerland, Brazil, Peru, and Paraguay for their significant assistance in this case. Ms. Rohde also thanked the Office of International Affairs and the Organized Crime and Gang Section of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Criminal Division in Washington, D.C., for their assistance in this prosecution.
“So much about the game of soccer is ingrained in many cultures around the world, they watch and play it with an almost religious fervor,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney. “The many subjects we have charged in this expansive and complex investigation used the reverence of fans to make millions of dollars illegally while they thought no one was watching. Their mistakes were using banks and companies in the United States to hide their misdeeds, but they got caught. The FBI has worked side-by-side with our national and international partners, traveling all over the world to build this case that wouldn’t have been possible without the great coordination of all the agencies investigating. We will continue searching out everyone involved in these backroom handshakes, and lucrative bribes that were once just part of the game.”
“As the guilty verdicts reflect, Juan Angel Napout and Jose Maria Marin undermined the soccer-related contracting process by entering into corrupt arrangements with executives of sports marketing companies who were more than willing to pay self-serving bribes,” said Special Agent-in-Charge Rowe of IRS Criminal Investigation. “IRS Criminal Investigation, along with our law enforcement partners at the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI, will continue to aggressively investigate those individual and corporate entities that use shell companies and financial accounts in bank secrecy jurisdictions, and in the process utilize the U.S. financial system to facilitate crooked practices within the world’s favorite sport.”
The Enterprise the Evidence at Trial
As proved at trial, FIFA and its six continental confederations, together with affiliated regional federations, national member associations, and sports marketing companies, constitute an enterprise of legal entities associated in fact for purposes of the federal racketeering laws. The principal – and entirely legitimate – purpose of the enterprise is to regulate and promote the sport of soccer worldwide. The enterprise financed its efforts in significant part by commercializing the media and marketing rights associated with various soccer events and tournaments, often through the sale of multi-year contracts covering multiple editions of the tournaments.
The evidence at trial, including witness testimony, contemporaneously kept ledgers, bank records, emails and text messages, and consensual recordings, established that the defendants and their co-conspirators had engaged in a conspiracy to corrupt the enterprise through racketeering activity. Specifically, the defendants and their co-conspirators corrupted the FIFA enterprise through the offer and receipt of tens of millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks paid by sports marketing companies to soccer officials. In particular, the evidence at trial established that Napout and Marin accepted, or agreed to accept, millions of dollars in bribes in exchange for the media and marketing rights to: (a) multiple editions of the CONMEBOL-sponsored Copa América soccer tournament played periodically by South American national teams, including the Copa América Centenario, a special edition of the tournament played in the United States in 2016; and (b) multiple editions of the CONMEBOL-sponsored Copa Libertadores soccer tournament played annually by South American club teams.
The Copa América bribes were paid, variously, by principals of the sports marketing companies Traffic, Torneos y Competencias (“Torneos”), and Full Play. The Copa Libertadores bribes were paid by Torneos and related entities, using Full Play as an intermediary. In addition, the government proved that Marin agreed to receive millions of dollars worth of bribes in exchange for the media and marketing rights to the Copa do Brasil, a soccer tournament sponsored by the CBF for Brazilian soccer clubs. Marin received and agreed to receive these bribes from Traffic and a Brazilian sports marketing company named Klefer.
Defendants who have pleaded guilty and corporate entities that have entered agreements with the government have agreed to forfeit more than $200,000,000 in this and related cases, and the government has collected more than $60,000,000 of that figure to date. The government has also restrained assets around the world in connection with this and related cases, with the assistance of various foreign governments. As previously announced, all of the forfeited funds are being held in reserve, in order to ensure their availability to satisfy any orders of restitution entered at sentencing for the benefit of individuals or entities that qualify as victims under federal law.
When sentenced by Judge Chen, the defendants convicted at trial face a maximum of 20 years in prison on each count of conviction. Each of the defendants also faces liability for millions of dollars in forfeiture and/or restitution, in amounts to be determined at the time of sentencing.
The government’s investigation is ongoing.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s FIFA Task Force. Assistant United States Attorneys Samuel P. Nitze, M. Kristin Mace, and Keith D. Edelman are in charge of the trial prosecution, with assistance from Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul Tuchmann, Kaitlin T. Farrell, and Brian D. Morris.
JUAN ÁNGEL NAPOUT
JOSÉ MARIA MARIN
The press release is available at justice.gov.