ASUNCION: A Paraguayan judge has ruled that Nicolas Leoz, 86-year-old former supremo of South American football, can be extradited to the United States to face charges in the FIFAGate corruption case writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Leoz is wanted under the terms of the indictment issued by the United States Department of Justice on May 27 charging him and 13 other senior football officials with fraud, bribery and money-laundering.
The former president of South American confederation CONMEBOL was placed under house arrest in June while in hospital for observation for a heart complaint.
He has denied the allegations and, according to his lawyer Fernando Barriocanal, intended to appeal to Paraguay’s highest courts.
Leoz’s lawyers argued that Paraguayan law did not recognise the validity of extradition applications. However Judge Humberto Otazu ruled that an extradition agreement did exist with the United States under which 14 people had been delivered since 1996.
Barriocanal said Leoz would appeal on the grounds that “he has not committed any crime in Paraguay.”
Leoz, sports journalist turned history teacher turned lawyer, was president of 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 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.
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 documents proving that he had received illicit commissions from FIFA’s bankrupted former marketing partner.
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.
** Jeffrey Webb, sacked president of CONCACAF, has applied to a New York court to be allowed to live at home in Georgia while awaiting trial on FIFAGate corruption charges. Last month Webb was released in July on a $10m bail bond on condition that he lived within 20 miles of the courthouse in Brooklyn.