Soccer ball (Photo by Francisco Estrada/LatinContent via Getty Images)
The Swiss courts have returned to the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) 36.6 million Swiss francs ($40 million) which had been retrieved from two former officials accused of corruption, the office of the attorney general (OAG) announced on Thursday.
In one of around 20 investigations around world football governing body FIFA, the OAG opened proceedings against the former president of CONMEBOL, Nicolas Leoz, who died in August 2019, as well as Eduardo Deluca, who was secretary general for 23 years.
“Both were alleged to have abused their positions to the prejudice of CONMEBOL and to have unlawfully enriched themselves and possibly other persons,” OAG said in a statement.
They were accused of having received bribes in exchange for the allocation of TV broadcasting rights for competitions organised by CONMEBOL, including the Copa America and the Copa Libertadores.
CONMEBOL president Alejandro Dominguez described the ruling as a “historic achievement” on Twitter.
“We confirm our commitment to justice, transparency and clear rules. What football generates should stay in football.”
Leoz, a former vice-president of FIFA and close ally of former president Sepp Blatter, was also implicated in an American bribery investigation over World Cup bidding. The Peruvian’s death in August 2019 prompted proceedings against him to be dropped.
“The presumption of innocence continues to apply in his case,” said the OAG which also abandoned criminal proceedings against the Argentinian Deluca in September.
This, however, was “essentially because criminal proceedings are being conducted in Argentina relating to the same matter, thus avoiding double jeopardy”.
The funds were secured and returned to CONMEBOL in three tranches — 16.1 million Swiss francs in December 2019, then 1.8 million and 18.7 million in September.
CONMEBOL underwent a forensic audit following the slew of corruption scandals affecting world football and some of the regional federation’s top officials.
It resulted in a profound and transparent restructuring of the federation converting it from a “criminal organisation” into an institution that was the “victim of its officials,” CONMEBOL said on its website.
CONMEBOL has also recovered deviated sums from bank accounts in Paraguay and the United States, which added to the Swiss funds amounts to $53.5 million.
It all relates to the FIFA-gate process in the US in which 42 people, mostly Latin-American businessmen and ex-football officials, as well as several sports companies, have been accused of 92 crimes and involvement in the payment of $200 million in bribes.