Corrupt Soccer Boss Faces Sentencing in FIFA Probe

By David Brand

Queens Daily Eagle

Paraguay’s former soccer federation faces sentencing in Brooklyn federal court today for his role in sprawling FIFA bribery scandal.

Juan Ángel Napout, 60, was convicted of wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy in December 2017. He collected millions of dollars in bribes from businesses looking to land media rights or influence World Cup hosting rights, NBC Sports reported.

Prosecutors seek a 20-year sentence.

Napout played a key role in the massive corruption scandals that have plagued FIFA, world soccer’s governing body, said Richard Donoghue, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, in the government’s sentencing submission to the court.

“Napout, a former leader in international soccer and in the proven bribery schemes, is among the most culpable of the conspirators and is personally responsible for perpetuating and expanding the corruption of soccer at a time when it was most in need of reform,” Donoghue said.

Napout was first arrested in 2015 during a hotel raid in Zurich where FIFA headquarters are located.

Though Napout never lived or worked in the U.S., prosecutors argued that he should be tried in the Eastern District of New York because of his “regular use of the airports” within the federal district, which includes LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy Airport. Prosecutors also said he made several wire transfers through Long Island City, Brooklyn and Manhattan, The New York Times reported.

Prosecutors presented evidence that revealed how Napout and other powerful soccer officials took bribes and kickbacks in exchange for media and marketing rights for a variety of major soccer tournaments Copa América, South America’s largest international tournament; Copa Libertadores, the continent’s largest club tournament, and Paraguays World Cup Qualifier matches.

Earlier this month, Jose Maria Marin, former president of Brazil’s soccer federation, was sentenced to four years in federal prison. Marin was convicted on the same racketeering charges. The government had sought a 10-year.

Dozens of people and entities have been charged in the U.S. with a scheme to extract hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks.

The former president of Peru’s soccer federation, Manuel Burga, was acquitted in December.

Last month, Imagina US — a subsidiary of a Barcelona-based media company called Imagina — pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy for attempting to bribe high-ranking officials of the Caribbean Football Union and four Central American national soccer federations. The company sliped officials from Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Honduras $6.5 million to secure media and marketing rights to their federations’ World Cup qualifier matches, according to the Department of Justice.

The company had to pay restitution to each federation.