Peruvian Acquitted in Soccer Bribery Trial in U.S.
By Christie Smythe
Jury’s not guilty finding follows conviction of Napout, Marin
Manuel Burga says he plans to return home to wife and children
The acquittal amounts to a mixed verdict for the U.S. government, which won convictions against the former heads of Brazil’s soccer federation and South American soccer on Friday.
A jury in Brooklyn, New York, on Tuesday came back with a not guilty verdict on a single count of racketeering conspiracy for Manuel Burga, 60. The jurors were undecided about Burga last week, when they delivered the guilty verdicts against the other officials.
Burga choked back sobs, covering his mouth, as the verdict was read.
|L-R Former president of Peru’s soccer federation, Manuel Burga, US Atty Keith Edelman, Burga’s Atty, Bruce Udolf Courtroom Art by Aggie Whelan Kenny|
Burga was charged alongside Juan Angel Napout, 59, a Paraguayan who was president of CONMEBOL, South American soccer’s governing body, and Jose Maria Marin, 85, the former head of Brazil’s soccer federation, as part of a sprawling U.S. probe alleging that international soccer officials and sports marketing executives conspired for decades in bribery schemes.
The U.S. verdict came in the first case to go to trial in a corruption crackdown that began with a predawn raid at a luxury hotel in Zurich in 2015. Burga’s acquittal and Napout and Marin’s convictions follow guilty pleas from 24 people tied to FIFA, international soccer’s governing association. Fifteen others who’ve been charged are fighting extradition to the U.S.
"There’s no question in my mind that it was the right call by the jury," Bruce Udolf, Burga’s lawyer, said in an interview after the verdict. "I’m very happy for him because he’s a good man and he’s been through hell for the last two years."