New York: The former head of the South American football confederation CONMEBOL, Juan Angel Napout, was sentenced to nine years in prison for his role in the sweeping FIFA corruption scandal — a tough punishment the judge said should deter others tempted by easy money.
The sentencing of the 60-year-old Napout came just a week after the former boss of Brazilian football, Jose Maria Marin, was jailed for four years in connection with the same case.
“There’s a need for general deterrence because there was, and perhaps there is still, corruption in international soccer,” federal Judge Pamela Chen told the courtroom as she delivered the sentence Wednesday.
Wearing a beige prison jumpsuit, Napout implored the judge: “I want to ask for your compassion. I want to ask for your mercy.” But Chen said it was important to send a message that you cannot steal millions in bribes from soccer organizations and go unpunished… that there are real consequences, that you’ll go to jail and it won’t be a slap on the wrist.
Napout, who was also once the head of Paraguayan football, was also ordered to pay a USD 1 million fine and return the USD 3.3 million in bribes that he pocketed. He was found guilty December 22 on three counts in connection with bestowing television and marketing rights for major events in exchange for lucrative kickbacks.
He was convicted of racketeering conspiracy and two counts of wire fraud conspiracy, but was acquitted on two counts of money laundering conspiracy. “He had a hidden character, a hidden life… perpetuating the notion that he was a good guy but all the while taking bribes,” Chen said during a marathon five-hour hearing.
In total, 42 officials and marketing executives, as well as the sports company Traffic, were indicted with corruption crimes totaling more than USD 200 million. The 2017 trial of Napout and the 86-year-old Marin exposed not only the corruption, but the life of privilege, luxury and excess enjoyed by members of FIFA’s executive committee.