FIFA Corruption Case: US federal judge overturns two convictionstext_fields
Washington: A US federal judge has overturned two convictions in the FIFA corruption scandal, citing a recent Supreme Court ruling.
The entities whose convictions have been overturned are Hernan Lopez, a former executive with 21st Century Fox, and an Argentine sports marketing firm called Full Play. These were found guilty in March of paying bribes and kickbacks to South American football officials in connection with various schemes related to television and marketing rights.
The FIFA corruption case was one of several that emerged from a 2015 probe conducted by the US Justice Department. This investigation sent shockwaves through the world of soccer, shaking the governing body FIFA and the continental confederations for South and North America. The US inquiry included dramatic raids on FIFA officials in Zurich, leading to numerous arrests, trials, and a cascade of charges, convictions, and guilty pleas.
In the March ruling, Hernan Lopez and Full Play were found guilty on charges of wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy. Lopez faced the prospect of up to 40 years in prison and significant financial penalties. Meanwhile, Full Play, owned by Hugo and Mariano Jinkis, remained under scrutiny with the potential of substantial fines, although its owners remained fugitives.
However, US District Judge Pamela Chen, in a ruling issued recently, cited a May Supreme Court decision that had implications for the wire fraud convictions. The Supreme Court decision in May overturned a wire fraud conviction of Joseph Percoco, a former aide to the former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Judge Chen explained, "The Supreme Court's latest wire fraud decisions - especially Percoco - and the absence of precedent applying honest services wire fraud to foreign commercial bribery, require this court to find that (the statute) does not criminalise the conduct alleged in this case and that therefore the evidence at trial was insufficient to sustain defendants' convictions under that statute," reported AFP.
She further stated, "Defendants' convictions for money laundering, predicated on their honest services wire fraud convictions, also cannot be sustained. The court, therefore, grants defendants' motions to acquit on all counts of conviction."
Before the convictions were challenged, the court heard that the primary beneficiaries of the kickback scheme were six influential figures in South American football, including former CONMEBOL president Nicolas Leoz, former Argentine football executive Julio Grondona, and former Brazilian football chief Ricardo Teixeira.