NEW YORK: Two years after the US investigation of football corruption became public, three former South American football officials went on trial here.
Former continental president Juan Angel Napout, former Brazilian federation head Jose Maria Marin and former Peruvian federation chief Manuel Burga were accused of taking millions of dollars from marketing firms in exchange for lucrative broadcasting and hosting rights for major tournaments, reports Xinhua news agency.
US prosecutor Keith Edelman on Monday said in the opening statement that the sport's high officials, driven by "lies, greed, and corruption", agreed to take millions of dollars in bribes over a period of decades and "lined their own pockets with money that should have gone to benefit the game instead of themselves".
But defence attorneys argued that the case against their clients was built on the testimony of witnesses who are simply trying to avoid harsh prison sentences and seeking leniency in their own criminal cases stemming from the probe.
Charles Stillman, one of Marin's attorneys, claimed Marin "is an innocent man".
"He was on the field," Stillman said, employing a football metaphor in his opening statement, "but not playing the game."
Marin, who is 85 years old, was arrested in Zurich's luxurious Baur au Lac on a May 2015 early morning. Napout, a wealthy Paraguayan, was picked up in another predawn raid on the Swiss hotel on December 3, 2015, while Burga, 60, was extradited from Peru in last December.