KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- At last, after an ethics filibuster beyond any and all logical comprehension, Marco Polo del Nero has been banned from football – two years and four months after having been indicted on corruption charges by the United States Justice Department.

FIFA’s ethics guardians have finally exhausted the litany of excuses to extend any further their grubby reluctance to pass any sort of definitive judgment on the thankfully now-former president of the Brazilian football confederation.

The delay between Del Nero’s indictment and his life ban came close to bringing the world federation’s own ethics committee into disrepute: a nonsensical state of affairs.

Shirt of infamy . . . Del Nero and Infantino in 2016

Contrast the treatment of the 77-year-old with that of the original Zurich Seven, the high-flying executives detained in Zurich on extradition warrants from the US back on May 27, 2015.

Only hours later, after Attorney-General Loretta Lynch had laid bare the “World Cup of corruption” so the then ethics chairman Hans-Joachim Eckert suspended the seven and four individuals more pending investigation.

But Del Nero?

Brief vacations

Indicted in December 2015 and made subject to an ethics inquiry two weeks later, he remained head of the CBF until suspended on December 15, 2017. Two years free as a bird to cover his tracks, arrange his defence, set up his successor (former finance controller Rogerio Caboclo) and even twice take a brief vacation from the presidency while he did so.

Not as if the seven charges against Del Nero were not serious. He was named, along with other executives, in a 92-count indictment alleging “racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies, sustained abuse of position for financial gain” and, personally, the receipt of $6.5m in bribes in connection with the award of broadcast and marketing rights to South American competitions.

But the US could not lay its hands on him. By remaining at home the millionaire with a penchant for young girlfriends, speedboats and helicopter travel was protected by the constitutional clause barring the extradition from Brazil of its citizens. In those two years, in Del Nero’s absence, Brazil played a string of foreign friendlies and travelled twice to the Copa America.

Famously, or infamously, he even welcomed Gianni Infantino to Rio for the Olympic Games in August 2016 by presenting the new FIFA president with a personalised Brazilian national team shirt (FIFA media officers later described it as “an ambush”).

Along the way Del Nero stumbled his way through an interrogation by Romario’s ultimately vain CBF investigation as well as what, for anyone else, should have been the embarrassment of a ‘folded-arms’ silent protest by Brazilian league players in protest at high-level corruption.

Then, last November and December, Del Nero’s money-making role in the whole ghastly CONMEBOL corruption morass was laid bare by witnesses in the FIFAGate trial of CBF predecessor Jose Maria Marin. Even Judge Patricia Chen was moved to offer a caustic view of Del Nero’s continued freedom in Brazil and his apparent “friends in high places.”

Court bribes claim

A former accountant of Argentinian rights agency TyC said Del Nero and Marin together received $4.8m between 2013 and 2014 in payments related to rights for the Copa Libertadores and Copa America.

Trial reports were headlined around the world. Even the FIFA ethics committee could no longer pretend ignorance. Hence ethics judge Vassilios Skouras suspended Del Nero for 90 days pending investigation. Del Nero insisted on his innocence but did not dare leave Brazil for a hearing in Switzerland and submitted evidence by video link.

Even then . . . the ethics committee decided it needed more time and extended Del Nero’s suspension for the permitted further 45 days. In the meantime, with the Brazilian media reporting Del Nero as pulling the strings, so Caboclo was elected as his CBF successor.

Thus on Friday, 24 hours before the expiry of the extended suspension, so Del Nero was suspended from football for life and fined one million Swiss francs (£733,171). He had been found guilty of having broken four of FIFA’s articles in its Code of Ethics covering bribery and corruption, offering and accepting gifts and other benefits, conflicts of interest, loyalty and general rules of conduct.

Del Nero greeted the verdict as “a clear affront to the most basic principles of defence and due legal process” and expressed an intention to appeal.

Presumably he will not attend the appeal in person either . . . whenever it may take place.