Ex-South American football boss wanted for ‘Fifagate’ dies

President of the South American Football Confederation (Conmebol) between 1986 and 2013, Nicolas Leoz died Wednesday at the age of 90 in a clinic in Asuncion. Leoz had been targeted since 2015 by an international arrest warrant issued by the American courts for « illegal association in organized gangs, fraud and money laundering ». The extradition procedure was in progress before the justice of Paraguay.

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Nicolas Leoz, a prominent figure in Paraguay, was suspected of having received bribes in exchange for the awarding of TV broadcasting rights for competitions organized by Conmebol. Also a former vice-president of FIFA and confidant of the all-powerful boss of the organization Joseph Blatter, he was also suspected of having taken bribes to favor the granting of the Worlds to Russia (2018 ) and in Qatar (2022), at the expense of the United States and England.

Mr. Leoz’s lawyers had argued his advanced age and fragile health – he suffered from heart problems, cancer and Parkinson’s disease – to try to block his extradition to the United States. Mr. Leoz, who was under house arrest in a private clinic in Asuncion while waiting for the Paraguayan justice to rule on his fate, died of a heart attack, according to the daily ABC Color.

Death of Nicolas Leoz, the former boss of South American football

Credit: Getty Images

The « Fifagate » was revealed in broad daylight in May 2015, with the arrest in Zurich of seven senior officials of world football on the sidelines of the FIFA congress, at the request of the American justice which was investigating several million dollars of bribes and kickbacks since the 1990s.

Among the 42 people charged by American justice were mostly South Americans. Many pleaded guilty, others managed to avoid extradition. Among the convicted is the former president of the Brazilian Federation (CBF) Jose Maria Marin, who was sentenced in August 2018 to four years in prison after a river trial in New York. Mr. Leoz’s successor at the head of Conmebol, his compatriot Juan Angel Napout, is serving a twenty-year sentence in an American prison.

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