KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING: An astonishing hint at the mind-boggling sums creamed off by corrupt and greedy world football powerbrokers has been revealed by South American governing body CONMEBOL.

In May 2015 the United States Department of Justice revealed the extent of its pursuit of more than 40 powerbrokers including senior members of the executive committees of world federation FIFA, of CONMEBOL and of the central and north American body CONCACAF.

The total sum arising from the registered charges by FBI and IRS tax investigators was $200m. But that was a snapshot from only around the previous five years. The grand total of football larceny was obviously much larger.

Partners in crime: Leoz and Deluca

CONMEBOL has effectively confirmed this with an announcement that, with the agreement of the Swiss judicial authorities, it has reclaimed $37m from the Swiss bank accounts of just two men alone: Nicolas Leoz and Eduardo Deluca.

Paraguayan Leoz was president of CONMEBOL from 1986 to 2013 when he was also a member of FIFA’s governing  executive committee; Argentinian DeLuca was long-serving general secretary of CONMEBOL and was considered the right-hand man of Julio Grondona.

The latter, who died in 2014, headed the Argentinian federation for 34 years and was FIFA’s senior vice-president and finance committee chair.

Extradition fights

Leoz died in 2019 while resisting a US extradition application; Argentinian courts refused extradition for Deluca on the grounds that he was under investigation on money-laundering and other charges. Both men were banned from football for life by FIFA.

CONMEBOL said: “More than CHF 36,600,000 (approximately $37m) is the amount recovered by CONMEBOL from personal accounts of Nicolás Leoz and Eduardo Deluca, who had irregularly diverted funds from the body. The Swiss Prosecutor’s Office accepted the claim.

“Monies returned to CONMEBOL – in Switzerland, Paraguay and the United States – to date amounts to more than $53.5m. In Paraguay, the sum returned by Leoz’s heirs added up to more than $16,05m; from the US came a further $550,000.”

CONMEBOL added: “This unprecedented achievement comes at an extremely opportune moment, taking into account the harsh effects of the pandemic and the unilateral termination of contracts for the transmission of competitions by Globo and DAZN in the important Brazilian market.”

More than half of the original 40-plus individuals charged have been handed short jail or time-served sentences. The extradition is still being sought of Jack Warner, a former FIFA vice-president from Trinidad & Tobago who was a long-serving and influential president of CONCACAF.

One of those still awaiting sentence is his successor, the Cayman Islands banker Jeff Webb.