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Paraguay judge rules ex-soccer boss Leoz can be extradited


Asuncion (AFP) – A court in Paraguay ruled Thursday that ex-South American soccer chief Nicolas Leoz could be extradited to face trial in the United States over alleged bribery and money laundering.

However the judge, Humberto Otazu, said his ruling was conditional on a medical board being set up to evaluate the health of 89-year-old Leoz.

His lawyer Ricardo Preda told AFP last week that Leoz is in frail health and receiving round-the-clock nursing care. He said he would appeal a decision to extradite his client.

One of the main suspects in the huge Fifagate scandal being investigated by the US Justice Department, Leoz is currently under house arrest in Asuncion.

The former president of the Confederation of South American Football (CONMEBOL) is suspected of receiving millions of dollars in bribes in exchange for marketing and TV rights for games. 

He denies any wrongdoing.

Leoz has been fighting extradition since shortly after seven FIFA executives were arrested by Swiss police in June as part of a huge investigation into the world soccer body.

He was admitted to hospital for a heart condition while his successor as CONMEBOL chief, Eugenio Figueredo, was being arrested in Geneva.

He was later detained by police in Paraguay and placed under house arrest.

Leoz “is 89, is in delicate health, which is worsening over time. He has nursing care 24 hours a day. He hasn’t traveled by plane for the last four years,” Preda said last week.

“We are convinced that the extradition request will not succeed,” he said.

“Without going into the substance of the matter, the facts he is accused of in the United States are not punishable in Paraguay,” said Preda.

The alleged bribes are considered as commissions in South America because the money involved was a transaction between private individuals, he added. It’s only an offense if they are paid to a public body or to a civil servant, the lawyer said.

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