Plea talks under way in FIFA bribery case as U.S. trial date set

Mon Sep 19, 2016 3:22pm EDT
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By Nate Raymond

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Several defendants charged in a wide-ranging corruption case involving soccer's global governing body FIFA are in talks with U.S. officials about possibly pleading guilty, a U.S. prosecutor said on Monday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Evan Norris spoke at a hearing in Brooklyn federal court after U.S. District Judge Pamela Chen set a Nov. 6, 2017, trial date for seven former soccer officials and one former marketing executive.

"We are in ongoing plea discussions with several of these defendants," Norris said.

The eight defendants, who have all pleaded not guilty, are among the 42 individuals and entities charged so far as part of a U.S. investigation that has rocked Zurich-based FIFA and the soccer world.

U.S. prosecutors accuse the defendants of participating in schemes involving more than $200 million in bribes and kickbacks, which were both sought and received by soccer officials for marketing and broadcast rights to tournaments and matches.

To date, 16 people and two sports marketing companies have pleaded guilty to U.S. charges.

The eight defendants facing the potential trial next year include former FIFA officials and executive committee members Jose Maria Marin of Brazil, Juan Angel Napout of Paraguay, Eduardo Li of Costa Rica and Julio Rocha of Nicaragua.

Others include Miami-based sports marketing executive Aaron Davidson, Hector Trujillo, a judge from Guatemala and ex-official with its soccer federation, former Cayman Islands soccer official Costas Takkas and ex-Venezuelan soccer official Rafael Esquivel.   Continued...

Eduardo Li, the former president of the Costa Rican soccer federation, who is one of the defendants charged in the FIFA corruption case walks with his lawyer, Thomas Zeno (L) outside of U.S. Federal Court in Brooklyn, New York, U.S., September 19, 2016.   REUTERS/Nate Raymond