Debate at the FIFA Trial: Witness Tampering or Itchy Skin?

Debate at the FIFA Trial: Witness Tampering or Itchy Skin?


Mr. Burzaco, an Argentine businessman who two years ago pleaded guilty to his role in the web of global criminal activity, finished testifying in the trial on Friday morning. Over the four days during which he appeared, he said Mr. Burga had solicited bribes and accepted promises of future payments. But, Mr. Burzaco said, Mr. Burga wanted to be paid only in cash because he was wary of accepting what he was owed while under investigation for money laundering in Peru.

As Mr. Burzaco was escorted off the witness stand on Tuesday, he informed a federal agent of Mr. Burga’s initial gesture, the judge said Friday. On Wednesday, Mr. Burzaco broke down crying on the witness stand after the second gesture.

Witness tampering, like racketeering conspiracy, can carry a penalty of up to 20 years in prison, which would mean the possibility of a 40-year sentence for Mr. Burga, 60, if he were to be found guilty of both crimes.

Mr. Burga, a lawyer who wore a dark suit and a tightly knotted tie on Friday, ate crackers as he walked along the fourth-floor hallway of the courthouse during a morning break.

Prosecutors have asked that he be remanded to jail in light of the threat they say he poses. For the time being, Judge Chen modified his bail conditions, putting a trace on his phone and limiting his calls to three phone numbers, those belonging to his wife, his lawyer and the court’s pretrial services line. Mr. Burga’s wife is the manager of a small hotel in Lima, according to Mr. Udolf.

“If Mr. Burga is so bold as to do this in court,” Judge Chen said, “there is some concern” about the threat he could pose. She added that she had taken into consideration that he was not on trial for a violent crime, and that he had no history of violent crime.

The jury in the trial is anonymous, after “documented attempts to obstruct justice and intimidate witnesses,” which were referenced in court documents this fall.

Mr. Burzaco is scheduled to give his interpretation of Mr. Burga’s hand gestures next week. On Friday, he spoke only with prosecutors, in private, about the matter.



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