Former head of South American soccer under house arrest
ASUNCION, Paraguay (AP) A judge in Paraguay on Monday ordered house arrest for the former president of the South American Football Confederation amid a far-reaching corruption scandal at FIFA that has tarnished the image of world soccer’s governing body.
Judge Humberto Otazu also said that 86-year-old Nicolas Leoz is expected to be released later in the day from a hospital in the Paraguayan capital where he is being treated for high blood pressure. Leoz, who was president of the federation, known as CONMEBOL, from 1986 to 2013, is one of several former and current top soccer officials named in a FIFA corruption investigation.
”In accordance with the seriousness of the case … it’s prudent and timely to issue the house arrest,” Otazu told reporters outside the hospital, adding that Leoz was not sent to prison because under Paraguayan law defendants over 70 years of age cannot be jailed pending a trial.
Last week, seven soccer officials were arrested in dawn raids at a luxury Zurich hotel. The U.S. Justice Department indicted 14 people on charges of bribery, racketeering, money-laundering and other charges. Among those in custody was Leoz’s successor at CONMEBOL and FIFA vice president and executive committee member, Eugenio Figueredo of Uruguay.
The Paraguayan foreign ministry has received a note from the United States Embassy requesting Leoz’s arrest and seeking his extradition.
Leoz has been receiving treatment at the Migone private hospital that he owns in Asuncion since the scandal broke out last Wednesday, pushing FIFA into the worst crisis in its 111-year history.
Lawyer Fernando Barriocanal told reporters outside the hospital that his client is in good spirits and will defend himself when the right time comes.