KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: Juan Angel Napout, one-time supremo of South American confederation CONMEBOL, has been banned for life from football for corruption by FIFA.
The world federation’s ethics committee needed a full 13 months to process all the evidence which had seen the Paraguayan already jailed for nine years in New York in August 2018 on charges including money-laundering and fraud arising out of the long-running FIFAGate investigation undertaken by the United States Department of Justice.
A FIFA statement said:
“Mr Juan Ángel Napout, a former President of the Paraguayan Football Association and the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) as well as a former FIFA vice‑president who had also been a member of several FIFA committees, [has been found] guilty of bribery in violation of the FIFA Code of Ethics.
“The investigation proceedings against Mr Napout referred to bribery schemes during the period from 2012 to 2015 in relation to his role in awarding contracts to companies for the media and marketing rights to CONMEBOL competitions.
“In its decision, the adjudicatory chamber found that Mr Napout had breached art. 27 (Bribery) of the FIFA Code of Ethics and, as a result, sanctioned him with a ban for life on taking part in any football-related activities (administrative, sports or any other) at both national and international level. In addition, a fine in the amount of CHF 1,000,000 has been imposed on Mr Napout.”
Napout, one of the wealthiest businessmen in Paraguay, had denied wrongdoing at a trial in tandem with ex-Brazil confederation president Jose Maria Marin.
The 61-year-old. who had spent the two years before his trial under house arrest in Florida, had also been fined $1m and ordered to pay $3.3m in damages after being convicted on three of the five counts he was facing: conspiracy to commit a criminal offence as part of a criminal organisation and conspiracy to commit bank fraud over broadcasting and media rights to the Copa America and the Copa Libertadores.
He was acquitted on two counts of money laundering relating to both tournaments.
Napout had succeeded Uruguayan Eugenio Figueredo as president of CONMEBOL in August 2014 on an interim basis. On March 4, 2015, he was re-elected for a full term as president and also appointed a vice-president of FIFA.
He was not one of of the ‘Zurich Seven’ arrested by Swiss police acting on a US extradition warrant at the Baur au Lac hotel on the eve of FIFA Congress in May 2015. Instead, despite believing he was safe from the long arm of the US law, he was similarly detained the following December while in Zurich on FIFA and CONMEBOL business.
The so-called FIFAGate investigation by the US Justice Department erupted into the public domain in May 2015 and led to the indictment of more than 40 individuals and companies and concerned around $200m in bribes in football in north, south and central America and the Caribbean.
Four of the accused – former CONCACAF general secretary Chuck Blazer, Brazilian marketing magnate Jose Hawilla, Nicaraguan official Julio Rocha and another ex-CONMEBOL president Nicolas Leoz – have all died during the investigatory process.
The US authorities are still trying to extradite Jack Warner, another former FIFA vice-president when head of central and north American body CONCACAF, from Trinidad & Tobago.