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Soccer-No prison for key witness in FIFA corruption probe

By Luc Cohen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A former Argentine businessman who pleaded guilty in the sprawling FIFA corruption probe will not have to spend time in prison, after his testimony contributed to the U.S. convictions of South American soccer officials and a television executive.

Alejandro Burzaco, the former head of Argentine sports marketing company Torneos y Competencias, was sentenced to time served on Friday by U.S. District Judge Pamela Chen in Brooklyn federal court.

No fine was imposed. The defendant previously forfeited about $21.7 million.

Burzaco, 58, had pleaded guilty in 2015 to three counts of racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

He admitted to paying bribes and kickbacks to officials at world soccer governing body FIFA and regional affiliates for marketing rights to tournaments including the World Cup and Copa America.

Burzaco also said Qatar bribed FIFA officials to host the 2022 World Cup, which the Middle Eastern country denies.

“We’re thrilled” with the sentence, Burzaco’s lawyer Jim Walden said in an interview. “Alejandro and his family are grateful to Judge Chen for her compassion and wisdom, and to prosecutors for recognizing the substantial good Alejandro has done.”

Prosecutors did not recommend a specific sentence for Burzaco. A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Breon Peace in Brooklyn had no additional comment.

The FIFA corruption probe has resulted in scores of convictions since U.S. and international authorities announced their first arrests in 2015.

At a 2017 trial, Burzaco told jurors he paid bribes to Juan Angel Napout, the former head of South American governing body CONMEBOL; former Brazilian soccer chief Jose Maria Marin, and former Peru soccer federation president Manuel Burga to secure rights to matches.

Napout and Marin were convicted and Burga was found not guilty.

Burzaco also testified at this year’s trial of Hernan Lopez and Carlos Martinez, two former 21st Century Fox executives accused of bribing soccer officials for broadcasting rights. Lopez and sports marketing company Full Play Group SA were convicted and Martinez was acquitted.

(Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York; Additional reporting by Jonathan Stempel; editing by Ed Osmond and Bill Berkrot)


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