NEW YORK (Reuters) - The federal judge overseeing the wide-ranging corruption case involving soccer’s global governing body FIFA said on Wednesday that a trial for eight defendants could begin in September or October of 2017.
U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie in Brooklyn at a hearing said that federal prosecutors had sought an early 2017 trial date, but given the amount of evidence still being processed, that September or October of next year was more realistic.
The trial would involve seven former soccer officials and one ex-marketing executive who are among the 42 individuals and entities charged so far in a case that has rocked the soccer world. All eight defendants had previously pleaded not guilty.
The judge said he wanted the case to move forward, noting the first of the eight defendants before him appeared in court in May 2015.
“At some point, we’re going to have to call it,” Dearie said.
The potential trial date was announced as Assistant U.S. Attorney Evan Norris disclosed that prosecutors expect to bring additional charges in the case, though he said that it was “too early to say” if additional defendants would be charged.
“Our ongoing investigation does continue,” Norris said. “It is quite active and quite broad.”
U.S. prosecutors accuse the defendants of participating in schemes involving more than $200 million in bribes and kickbacks, both sought and received by soccer officials for marketing and broadcast rights to tournaments and matches.
The investigation has plunged Zurich-based FIFA and the sport’s regional governing bodies into an unprecedented crisis. Gianni Infantino, FIFA’s newly elected president, has vowed to restore the organization’s tattered image.
To date, 16 people and two sports marketing companies have pleaded guilty in the U.S. case. Most recently, Brayan Jimenez, a former president of Guatemala’s soccer federation, pleaded guilty on Friday. [L1N1AF1Z1]
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, ex-Cayman Islands soccer official Costas Takkas, and ex-Venezuelan soccer official Rafael Esquivel.
Dearie said he would set an exact date for their trial in an order following the court hearing. The judge is also expected to hear a potential request for an even earlier trial date for at least one - Napout - of the defendants.
Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York, additional reporting by Mica Rosenberg, editing by G Crosse