Nicolas Leoz, a long-time president of the South American Football Confederation (Conmebol) and key figure in the wide-ranging corruption scandal that hit world football in 2015, has died at the age of 90.
The Paraguayan, who has been under house arrest in his home country for the past four years while fighting extradition to the United States, passed away yesterday (Wednesday). His lawyer, Ricardo Preda, told the Associated Press news agency that his client died after a cardiac arrest linked to age-related ailments.
Leoz served as president of Paraguay-based Conmebol from 1986 to 2013 and was also a long-serving member of the Executive Committee of world football’s governing body Fifa. He was indicted in 2015 as part of the U.S. Justice Department’s sweeping probe into bribery and financial corruption linked to broadcast and sponsorship rights for several leading football competitions.
Leoz resigned from his Conmebol and Fifa positions in 2013 before the latter’s Ethics Committee could sanction him amid long-held allegations that he took kickbacks from World Cup revenues. Leoz is alleged to have received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Swiss-based marketing agency ISL, which marketed the World Cup’s broadcast rights before its collapse into bankruptcy in 2001.
Despite a Paraguayan court confirming Leoz’s extradition to the US in May 2018, Leoz has remained in Paraguay while fighting the decision. In November 2017, Alejandro Burzaco, former chief executive of Argentinian media group and sports-rights agency Torneos, said that he and his company agreed to pay 30 football officials around $160m (€144.5m) in bribes as it was first announced that Paraguay had agreed to extradite Leoz to the US.
Burzaco touched on Leoz’s role in corruption in world football during his testimony in the US trial into the case. “There was hardly any difference from his personal banking account and Conmebol’s account,” Burzaco said. “Nicolas Leoz sometimes would confuse his personal finances with Conmebol’s finances.”
Asked for clarification, Burzaco said: “I mean he would steal from Conmebol.”
In addition to the extradition process, which had been reaching its final stages, Leoz was also facing an investigation by the Paraguayan prosecutor following a complaint of breach of trust presented by the current administration of Conmebol.