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March 19, 2018

FIFA trial hears of dancing, private jet, massages

FIFA trial hears of dancing, private jet, massages
'Former South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) president Juan Angel Napout arrives with family last month at the court in Brooklyn, New York' - By: AFP/File DON EMMERT

A Brazilian businessman told a US Federal Court on Wednesday that he helped set up a huge bribe to South American football officials to secure the rights for a new tournament.

Fabio Tordin testified in New York at the trial of three South American football executives charged in connection with the largest graft scandal in world soccer history.

Tordin was one of 42 people indicted in the FIFA corruption mega-scandal. He pleaded guilty in 2015, agreed to return $600,000 and is now cooperating with the US government against the only three accused in the dock.

Their trial began last month.

Jose Maria Marin, 85, former president of Brazil's Football Confederation; former FIFA vice president Juan Angel Napout, 59, of Paraguay; and Manuel Burga, who led soccer in Peru until 2014, are charged with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies.

Tordin said that at a lavish farm on a summer night in Uruguay, three other top officials, from CONCACAF, the football federation for North and Central America and the Caribbean, accepted nearly $500,000 from Argentinian sports rights company Full Play -- but the tournament never saw the light of day.

According to Tordin, the deal was set up by him and Miguel Trujillo, a Colombian football consultant with links to Full Play's owners, Hugo and Mariano Jinkis.

His account matched Trujillo's, who earlier told the court that he helped set up bribes between Argentine sports marketing companies and CONCACAF.

- Massages -

Tordin said that after lunching at the beach he, Trujillo, and CONCACAF bosses Alfredo Hawit, Rafael Salguero, and Ariel Alvarado returned to Jinkis' "beautiful" country house.

The aim was to "convince the (CONCACAF bosses) that Full Play could be the marketing arm of CONCACAF," he said.

"Full Play agreed to pay $300,000 for the officials in exchange for them signing the document," said Tordin, adding Hawit, as president of CONCACAF, later said he "deserved" $150,000 more -- bringing the total payment to $450,000.

Later in 2011, after a night of dancing and dining in Buenos Aires, the three CONCACAF bosses enjoyed a trip to an ultra-exclusive resort via private jet, Tordin added.

He also revealed hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes were paid via banks in Panama to former senior figures in Honduran, Costa Rican, Salvadoran and Guatemalan football.

Tordin said that he and Trujillo would sometimes exaggerate the amounts of the bribes to their bosses at events management company Media World, in order to keep a cut for themselves.

Another government witness was Nelson Sanabria, ex-assistant to Napout, a past president of the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL).

He told the court his former boss was fond of massages, manicures and pedicures -- appointments arranged by his discrete chauffeur.

The three accused have pleaded not guilty.

A total of 24 accused have already admitted their guilt in the case outlined in a 236-page complaint detailing 92 separate crimes and 15 corruption schemes to the tune of $200 million.

US prosecutors announced the indictments on May 27, 2015, exposing a quarter-century of endemic corruption in the heart of FIFA, soccer's governing body.

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