KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Marco Polo del Nero has failed to persuade the FIFA appeal committee to overturn an ethics commission life ban from football which was imposed after he was accused of corruption by the United States Justice Department.
The FIFA pursuit of Del Nero appeared half-hearted for much of the time after he was indicted in December 2015.
Even though he was made subject to an ethics inquiry two weeks later, he remained president of the Brazilian CBF for a further two years until his eventual suspension 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.
Del Nero had been named by the US authorities, 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.
The US could not, however, 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 star-turned-senator Romario’s ultimately vain CBF investigation as well as the embarrassment of a ‘folded-arms’ silent protest by Brazilian league players.
In November and December, 2017 his money-making role in the 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.
Finally, the FIFA ethics committee took action with judge Vassilios Skouras suspending 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.
Eventually 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. This has now been rejected.
A typically bare statement said:
The FIFA Appeal Committee has confirmed the decision taken by the adjudicatory chamber of the independent Ethics Committee to ban Mr Marco Polo Del Nero (the former President of the Brazilian Football Association (CBF)) for life from all football-related activities (administrative, sports or any other) at national and international level, and to order him to pay a fine of CHF 1 million.
Mr Del Nero was found guilty of infringements of arts 21 (Bribery and corruption), 20 (Offering and accepting gifts and other benefits), 19 (Conflicts of interest), 15 (Loyalty) and 13 (General rules of conduct) of the FIFA Code of Ethics.
The investigation against Mr Del Nero concerned, inter alia, schemes in which he received bribes in exchange for his role in awarding contracts to companies for the media and marketing rights to various football tournaments, including the CONMEBOL Copa América and Copa Libertadores and the CBF Copa do Brasil.
Del Nero still has the right to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.