ASUNCION: A court in Asuncion will rule within three days, in the Nicolas Leoz case, on whether Paraguayan law permits consideration of extradition requests writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
The 86-year-old former president of the national football federation and of the South American confederation, CONMEBOL, is the subject of an indictment issued by the United States Department of Justice in May in its FIFAgate investigation.
Leoz is accused of fraud, money-laundering and bribery in connection with commercial contracts for major Latin American football tournaments. He is a former long-serving member of the executive committee of world football federation FIFA and was revealed as one of the men who accepted bribes from the collapsed ISL marketing agency.
US judicial authorities delivered an extradition application to the Paraguayans in June when Leoz was being treated in a clinic near his home in Luque.
Leoz’s lawyers have said he intends to contest the application with the first step being the need for a ruling on whether Paraguayan law even allows for the consideration of extradition applications.
Judge Humberto Otazo indicated that a ruling will be delivered in three days because “there are some very complex issues that have been raised before the court.”
Leoz is the oldest man to be detained in the worldwide police swoops triggered by the US DoJ indictment concerning multi-million corruption, mainly among football leaders and marketing companies in the Americas.
He has a long record as one of the men who accepted bribes from ISL before the collapse into criminal bankruptcy in 2001 of world federation FIFA’s long-term marketing partner.
The US Justice Department indictment described Nicolas Leoz as being in a position ” to use his power and influence to unlawfully enrich himself.”
Back in June it was Judge Otazu who ordered the local detention of Leoz who was said to have been admitted to hospital because of blood pressure concerns.
Otazu, after a hospital visit, said then that Leoz opposed extradition on the grounds that “does not know the grounds on which he is being accused.”
He allowed Leoz to remain under house arrest since the Paraguayan criminal code prevents custody for people aged more than 70.
Otazu summaried the charges as “conspiracy to plan or engage in organised crime with fraudulent intent.”
Leoz, sports journalist turned history teacher turned lawyer, was president of the South American confederation CONMEBOL from 1986 until 2013. He succeeded Peruvian Teofilo Salinas not only as president but as a member of FIFA’s exco.
Along with the late Argentinian Julio Grondona and Brazilian Ricardo Teixeira, Leoz comprised a triumvirate who had wielded a power within FIFA totally beyond their numerical status.
A former president of the Libertad club and twice a president of the Paraguayan federation in the 1970s, Leoz was accused by ex-FA chairman Lord David Triesman of asking for a knighthood in exchange for voting for England in the FIFA World Cup 2018 ballot.
Leoz has always denied any wrongdoing.
In April 2013 Leoz suddenly quit CONMEBOL, the FIFA exco and the presidency of the 2013 Confederations Cup organising committee. He timed his departure just ahead of publication of the ISL documents.
In 2000 Leoz published his autobiography. The title, Pido La Palabra (Give Me the Floor), amused FIFA officials and fellow exco members since Leoz was notorious for dozing off during committee meetings.