Fifa suspends Brazilian soccer president Del Nero
Marco Polo Del Nero, the president of the CBF, the Brazilian soccer confederation, was today provisionally suspended by the Fifa ethics committee for a period of 90 days while an investigation is carried out into his conduct.
The 76-year-old Del Nero (pictured) had remained at the helm of the domestic game despite being charged by US authorities with racketeering and money-laundering in 2015.
Today he was banned from all soccer activities at both national and international level, and the suspension can be extended for an additional period not exceeding 45 days
CBF vice-president Colonel Antonio Carles Nunes de Lima has assumed Del Nero’s responsibilities for the time being.
The action against Del Nero comes more than two years after he was named in a US Department of Justice indictment that resulted from the wide-ranging Fifa-gate investigation into corruption in international soccer.
The probe centres on schemes in which $200 million in bribes and kickbacks concerning media and marketing rights to soccer across the Americas were alleged to have been paid to officials with links to Fifa.
Del Nero is the subject of a US extradition order, but has remained in Brazil as the country tends not to extradite its citizens to other nations, and he denies the allegations against him.
The CBF president’s name has been cited regularly in the trial of three former South American soccer officials taking place in New York, and linked to the Fifa-gate scandal.
Those accused, who face charges of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering, are José Maria Marin, Del Nero’s predecessor as CBF president, Juan Ángel Napout, the Paraguayan former president of Conmebol, and Manuel Burga, the former president of the FPF, the Peruvian federation.
All three were named in the 2015 indictment.
In closing arguments on Thursday, Charles Stillman, the defence attorney of Marin said that his client “never joined in the conspiracy… He sits here today an innocent man.”
Stillman added that the 85-year-old Marin was a mere figurehead as CBF president while Del Nero had taken control and became involved in the corruption scheme.
The lawyer said Marin “became president by default,” and that “Del Nero ran the show.”
Marin, Napout and Burga have all pleaded not guilty and their defence attorneys have argued that prosecution witnesses including Alejandro Burzaco, the former chief executive of Argentinian sports agency Torneos y Competencias, who has pleaded guilty to various offences, are co-operating with the authorities and shifting blame in order to secure reduced sentences.
Marin was one of seven Fifa officials arrested in Zurich in May 2015 ahead of a Congress of soccer’s international governing body, and was later extradited to USA.
Del Nero fled the Swiss city, to return to Brazil, at the same time as Marin’s arrest, and has not left his home country since.
In November 2015, he resigned from the Fifa executive committee and also stood down temporarily as head of the CBF, only to return to that office early in 2016.
His suspension comes at a time when Brazilian soccer is again flourishing, at least on the pitch, with Copa Libertadores champions Gremio having reached this Saturday's final of the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi, in which they will take on Real Madrid, and the national team among the favourites for next year's World Cup in Russia.