Brooklyn Federal Court jurors finally reached a verdict in the soccer corruption case against the former Peruvian official, Manuel Burga. The verdict is “Not guilty!” One day after the holiday recess, the court handed down an acquittal on his racketeering conspiracy charge. Prosecutors sought to tie him into broader schemes with other South American soccer officials.
In this case, jurors concluded that prosecutors couldn’t prove Burga was actually receiving over $4 million in bribe money. Burga’s acquittal means he will not face prison time like his co-defendants. Whereas, Juan Angel Napout and Jose Maria Marin may spend up to 10 years in prison. Their convictions included racketeering conspiracy and money laundering charges.
The soccer bosses participated in one of the biggest corruption cases involving FIFA. “The trio were part of entrenched soccer sleaze where soccer officials traded lucrative commercial rights to games for millions of dollars in bribes,” according to the prosecutor.
The Case Against Burga
Burga’s acquittal is the first of at least 40 defendants. During the corruption investigation, the US government uncovered hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks, according to the Guardian. So far, 24 defendants entered a guilty plea.
The defense argued that the men were innocent bystanders. Federal prosecutors, well known for building cases, use people willing to cooperate. They often allow “untrustworthy cooperators angling for leniency in their own cases” to testify against defendants.
The Peruvian official’s attorney, Udolf adamantly claimed the US government had no proof his client took bribes. “It was an ambitious indictment to clean up the industry,” Bruce Udolf told the jury in his closing arguments.
On the contrary, the prosecutor believed she had “powerful evidence” against Burga. Kristin Mace presented a case connecting the “racketeering conspiracy that showed when the agreements were formed and how they were executed.”
Furthermore, the prosecutor alleged that Burga made threats to one of the government’s key witnesses. Burga made a hand gesture in the form of throat-slitting, to the Argentina sports marketing executive Alejandro Burzaco, according to Law 360. Judge Chen ordered greater restrictions to his bail. Burga plans to return Peru.