Fifa's Leoz absent as heat rises

The President of CONMEBOL calls in sick after being named in the ISL fraud trial.

    Nicolas Leoz is under pressure over alleged payments
    from ISL [EPA]
    The head of the South American football federation, who was named in a Swiss corruption trial this week, was absent from Fifa's executive meeting.

    Fifa said Nicolas Leoz absence was not due to the trial but rather to undergo an unspecified operation.

    "Nicolas Leoz is absent for medical reasons. He is having surgery that we cannot reveal the details of,'' a Fifa spokesman, Pekka Odriozola, said.

    Leoz is the only senior Fifa official named in the corruption trial of six executives from ISL/ISMM, the former marketing partner of world football's governing body.

    The defendants have been charged in connection with the collapse of ISL/ISMM in 2001, leaving debts estimated at $300 million.

    Prosecutors in the Swiss city of Zug allege the company paid about $18 million to people involved in negotiating television rights for major sports events.

    Court documents released Tuesday said Leoz, a 79-year-old lawyer from Paraguay who has been CONMEBOL president since 1986, was sent two payments in 2000 totaling $130,000.

    Leoz has not been accused of acting illegally and has previously denied any connection with the marketing company.

    'No comment'

    "For legal reasons we are not able to comment on the case," Fifa spokesman Andreas Herren said.

    Parent company ISSM held the television and marketing rights for the 2002 and 2006 Fifa World Cup, and also had a partnership deal with the men's ATP tennis tour.

    Prosecutors allege the six men on trial knew about payments to sports officials, and channelled television money owed to Fifa into ISL's own accounts.

    The criminal mishandling allegedly amounted to more than $98 million.

    Strict privacy laws in Switzerland mean officials have not publicly named the defendants, who deny all charges of embezzlement, fraud, fraudulent bankruptcy, damaging creditors and falsification of documents.

    German media have identified the former ISL/ISMM executives as Daniel Beauvois, Christoph Malms, Hans-Juerg Schmid, Heinz Schurtenberger, Hans-Peter Weber and Jean-Marie Weber. Both Jean-Marie Weber and Hans-Peter Weber refused to testify Tuesday.

    They each face between three and 4½ years in prison if convicted. The case has been adjourned to March 31.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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