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Nicolas Leoz: Ex-South American football boss, mired in FIFA scandal, dies

Former South American football chief Nicolas Leoz, a key suspect in the huge FIFA corruption scandal investigated by the US Justice Department, has died aged 90 in Asuncion, medical sources said.

Nicolas Leoz
Nicolas Leoz

The United States had sought to extradite the Paraguayan — one of the most powerful men in South American football — to face trial over alleged bribery and money laundering but his lawyers frustrated all attempts to do so, citing his frail health.

He died of heart failure in hospital on Wednesday, medical sources and local media reported in Paraguay.

Leoz had been under house arrest in Asuncion in connection with the scandal and was suspected of receiving millions of dollars in bribes in exchange for marketing and TV rights for games.

In November 2017, a court in Paraguay ruled that the former president of the Confederation of South American Football (CONMEBOL) could be extradited to face trial in the United States, pending a medical board being set up to evaluate his health.

Leoz, who headed CONMEBOL from 1986 to 2013, had denied any wrongdoing.

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The FIFA corruption scandal — the largest graft probe in the history of world football — led to the conviction and imprisonment of Leoz’s successor as CONMEBOL president Juan Angel Napout and former Brazilian FA boss Jose Maria Marin.

Forty-two people were indicted in the United States in connection with the FIFA corruption scandal which erupted in 2015 and led to the overthrow disgraced former FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

Many of those indicted pleaded guilty, although others, such as former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner, managed to avoid extradition.

A former vice president of FIFA and a close ally of Blatter, Leoz was also one of a group of leaders suspected of receiving bribes to support Qatar’s successful bid to host the 2022 World Cup.

CONMEBOL filed its own lawsuit against Leoz for breach of trust, criminal association and money laundering, accusing him of diverting more than $110 million from the association’s funds to his personal accounts.

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