Ex CONMEBOL head presses court to rule out US extradition
A lawyer for the former president of South America’s soccer confederation is requesting a Paraguayan judge to throw out a request by U.S. prosecutors to extradite him to the United States where he has been charged in a corruption scandal.
Nicolas Leoz is one of 14 people indicted by the U.S. Justice Department on charges of bribery, racketeering and money-laundering. The 86-year-old is being held under house arrest in the Paraguayan capital that is home to the headquarters of the confederation, known as CONMEBOL.
His lawyer, Ricardo Preda, said Monday that there’s a “legal vacuum” because a law doesn’t exist to decide on extraditions. A local judge overseeing the request says he’ll respond in three days.
Leoz was CONMEBOL president from 1986-2013, and a former member of FIFA’s executive committee. In 1997, he lobbied Paraguay’s legislators for a law making the CONMEBOL headquarters exempt from legal intervention, and once bragged that only the Vatican enjoyed the kind of “immunity and total privileges.”
Paraguay recently repealed the immunity that CONMEBOL’s headquarters enjoyed for nearly two decades. It included protection from the kind of raids that happened in May at FIFA and CONCACAF headquarters in Switzerland and Miami.
Leoz, who is on Interpol’s most wanted list, says he’s innocent and plans to continue fighting extradition to the U.S.
Ricardo Preda, lawyer of Nicolas Leoz, talks to journalists at Migone Hospital, in Asuncion, Paraguay on May 27.