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World soccer bodies awarded just $2.63 million in U.S. bribery case

World soccer bodies awarded just $2.63 million in U.S. bribery case
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By Jonathan Stempel

NEWYORK (Reuters) – A U.S. judge said the world soccer governing body FIFA and two regional soccer federations deserved to recoup just $2.63 million (2.06 million pounds) from two former officials convicted on bribery charges, a small fraction of the roughly $125 million (97.82 million pounds) they sought.

The decision on Tuesday night by U.S. District Judge Pamela Chen in Brooklyn, New York is a defeat for FIFA and the regional bodies CONCACAF and CONMEBOL, which were seeking restitution from former Brazilian soccer federation president José Maria Marin and former CONMEBOL chief Juan Angel Napout.

Chen said FIFA was entitled to just $108,268 of the roughly $28 million it wanted.

CONCACAF, the North American, Central American and Caribbean governing body, was awarded $1.74 million, after requesting $9.8 million. CONMEBOL, which oversees soccer in South America, was awarded $783,662, after requesting $86.8 million.

Marin and Napout were among more than 40 individuals and companies charged in a broad multinational probe into soccer corruption unveiled in 2015. At least two dozen have pleaded guilty.

Jurors last December found Marin and Napout guilty December of conspiracy charges, and Marin of wire fraud.

Marin was sentenced to four years in prison and a $1.2 million fine, and Napout to nine years in prison and a $1 million fine. Both appealed their convictions and sentences.

FIFA had sought restitution largely for legal and consulting fees, while CONCACAF and CONMEBOL’s requests mainly concerned lost revenue.

In her 32-page decision, Chen said FIFA did not deserve most of what it sought because it had voluntarily asked U.S. investigators to look into possible corruption, perhaps to preserve its “victim status” and avoid prosecution.

“As defendant Napout correctly argues, ‘a corporation acting out of self-preservation cannot turn around and have its costs reimbursed through restitution,’” Chen wrote.

The judge rejected CONCACAF’s revenue claim because it lacked a “sound methodology,” and said CONMEBOL didn’t show how $85.4 million of bribes allegedly paid was a fair measure of lost revenue, “given the rampant corruption that seemingly affected all of the comparable tournament contracts.”

FIFA’s lawyer Stephen Hauss said that body was disappointed because the decision “effectively punishes FIFA for acting the way a victim should act.” He said FIFA remained committed to helping hold the defendants accountable.

Ben O’Neil, a lawyer for CONMEBOL, noted that Chen said her revenue ruling “may seem harsh,” and said CONMEBOL will work to address her concerns as other defendants are sentenced.

Lawyers for CONCACAF had no immediate comment.

The case is U.S. v. Napout et al, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, No. 15-cr-00252.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by David Gregorio)

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