Ex-Brazil soccer chief denies US bribery charge

Ex-Brazil soccer chief denies US bribery charge

Wednesday, November 4, 2015 11:35 am

Maria Marin with FBI officials

Jose Maria Marin with FBI officials

A Brazilian FIFA official who was a key organiser of the 2014 World Cup in his home country pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to US charges stemming from a sprawling bribery case that has scandalised the football world.

José Maria Marin appeared in federal court in Brooklyn following his extradition from Switzerland, where he was arrested in May along with five other FIFA officials in a raid on a luxury hotel in Zurich.

A judge agreed to release the 83-year-old defendant on $15m bond and let him live with tight restrictions in a New York apartment until his case is resolved.

A haggard-looking Marin listened to the proceeding through an interpreter. He slumped down in a chair while lawyers remained standing in front of the bench discussing his bail conditions. He later rose for a long embrace with his wife, who was required to sign the bond.

Swiss officials on Tuesday  handed Marin over to two U.S. police officers in Zurich who accompanied him on a flight to New York.

The 83-year-old is a former president of the Brazilian Football Confederation, and headed Brazil’s preparations to host the 2014 World Cup. He is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday morning in Brooklyn federal court, where he is expected to plead not guilty to corruption charges.

Marin was among seven officials from global soccer body FIFA who were arrested in May at their Zurich hotel after being indicted on U.S. charges.

The affair has rocked the administration of the world’s most popular sport and upset powerful commercial sponsors. Among those under investigation are veteran FIFA boss Sepp Blatter, who is currently suspended and is due to be replaced in an election in February.

Marin, who agreed last week to be extradited, is accused of having taken bribes in connection with sports marketing rights.

U.S. authorities say he was one a handful of high-ranking soccer officials who were due to receive $110 million in bribes in exchange for the media rights for regional soccer tournaments. They say at least $40 million had been paid out by the time the charges were announced.

The indictment also links Marin to a scheme to receive bribes for the commercial rights associated with the Copa do Brasil, an annual tournament for Brazil’s top club teams.



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