Paraguay court confirms extradition of soccer official Leoz
ASUNCION, Paraguay (AP) A Paraguayan court on Tuesday confirmed the extradition of Nicolas Leoz, the former president of South America’s soccer confederation.
However, his defense attorney said they would appeal the decision at the country’s Supreme Court.
The 89-year-old Leoz was charged in a corruption scandal being investigated by the U.S. Justice Department, and has been held under house arrest in Asuncion fighting the extradition order.
A court in November approved his extradition to the United States, where he has been wanted since 2015 on charges of receiving millions of dollars in bribes from marketing companies in exchange for TV and marketing rights to soccer tournaments.
Leoz denies any wrongdoing.
An appeals court on Tuesday confirmed the decision by denying an appeal.
”Two of the three members of the appeals court voted for his extradition, while one of them voted in favor of our position to deny the extradition because Paraguay doesn’t have similar legislation to the U.S., where bribery in the private sector is considered a crime,” Leoz’s attorney, Nicolas Preda, told The Associated Press.
Preda said his legal team would soon appeal to the Supreme Court, which he said doesn’t have a deadline to rule.
Leoz was president of CONMEBOL from 1986 to 2013, when he resigned after acknowledging he received $130,000 in payments from a former marketing partner of FIFA.
Amid the scandal, Leoz also quit as a member of FIFA’s executive committee, citing health reasons. Soccer’s ruling body reprimanded Leoz but never sanctioned him.
The U.S. Justice Department has indicted more than 40 soccer and marketing officials, including Leoz, on charges of bribery, racketeering and money laundering.
Leoz lobbied Paraguay’s legislators in 1997 for a law making the headquarters of CONMEBOL exempt from legal intervention. He once bragged that only the Vatican enjoyed the same kind of ”immunity and total privileges.”
After the FIFA scandal broke in 2015, Paraguay signed a law repealing the immunity that CONMEBOL’s headquarters enjoyed for nearly two decades.
Once the immunity was lifted, the building was raided by authorities, who seized thousands of documents that were sent to the U.S. Justice Department.