SAO PAULO — Swiss authorities said Wednesday they are returning about $37 million in seized funds to South American soccer confederation CONMEBOL.
The money is linked to a Swiss corruption investigation into CONMEBOL'S former president Nicolás Leoz of Paraguay and former secretary-general Eduardo Deluca of Argentina. Leoz and Deluca were among the targets of a probe launched in 2015, led by U.S. federal prosecutors with help of Swiss authorities. They were among nearly 20 officials accused of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering.
The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) said in a statement the funds were in frozen bank accounts and had been “unlawfully acquired” at CONMEBOL's expense.
“As the party suffering harm within the respective criminal proceedings is doubtlessly known – the CONMEBOL – the forfeited funds will be returned directly to it," the OAG said.
The Swiss authority added Leoz and Deluca “abused their positions” and “unlawfully enriched themselves and possibly other persons.”
Leoz died in August 2019, which stopped legal proceedings against him.
The South American soccer body celebrated the decision, saying it shows that CONMEBOL is a “victim” of previous leaders. The confederation added it is yet to decide how to use the retrieved funds.
“This unprecedented achievement of CONMEBOL comes at an extraordinarily momentous occasion, as it deals with the hard effects of the pandemic and the unilateral contract termination of with broadcasters Globo and DAZN in the important Brazilian market,” the soccer body said.
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Mauricio Savarese, The Associated Press