RIO DE JANEIRO: Marco Polo del Nero has insisted to a FIFA ethics investigation that he is totally innocent of all allegations of bribery and corruption laid against him by the United States Justice Department’s FIFAGate inquiry writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

Del Nero, 76-year-old president of the Brazilian CBF, was suspended last month for 90 days pending the outcome of a FIFA ethics investigation into apparently damning evidence delivered in the New York trial of Jose Maria Maria, his presidential predecessor.

Both men had been indicted in the US investigation; the difference was that Marin was detained for extradition in Zurich in May 2015 on the eve of FIFA Congress while Del Nero, learning about the arrest, took the next flight home.

Brazilian citizens are precluded from extradition from the country by a clause in the constitution. Hence Del Nero has remained in Brazil ever since and refused to travel abroad even with his own national team.

Del Nero, who denies all wrongdoing, was indicted in the US on seven charges including money laundering and the receipt of $6.5m in bribes in connection with the award of broadcast and marketing rights to South American international competitions.

Marin was found guilty last month on similar charges, which he denied, and will be sentenced for an expected prison term in April.

Del Nero refused to face the FIFA ethics panel in person on Friday and was granted permission to participate via video link, supported by two lawyers.  Local media reports in Rio de Janeiro state that he repeatedly insisted on his innocence during the five-and-a-half-hour hearing.

Sources close to Del Nero have claimed that FIFA had no independent evidence of its own and had drawn entirely on US DoJ documentation underpinnning seven charges – three for fraud, three for money laundering and one for participating in a criminal organisation.

Del Nero’s 90-day suspension expires on March 14 but the ethics committee may extend it by a further 45 days if its investigation remains incomplete.