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Brazil Soccer Chief Questioned as FIFA Checks World Cup Progress

One of Brazil’s highest-ranking soccer officials was brought in for questioning today as part of a nationwide police sting operation over alleged financial crimes and extortion.

The sweep coincides with the visit to Brazil of Jerome Valcke, general secretary of the world soccer governing body FIFA. Valcke, who is inspecting the construction of stadiums and other preparations for the 2014 World Cup, told reporters in Rio de Janeiro that the police questioning of Marco Polo Del Nero, vice president of Brazil’s soccer federation, or CBF, was an internal Brazilian issue he would not comment on, Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper said.

Del Nero, who is also a member of FIFA’s executive committee, was questioned after police searched his home for documents in a dawn raid, according to a statement he posted on the website of the Sao Paulo soccer federation. A criminal lawyer by profession, he said his testimony to police was unrelated to soccer.

The police are investigating Del Nero’s alleged links to a criminal organization it says engaged in illegal spying and extortion of politicians suspected of fraud in public tenders. As part of today’s police operation, 33 people were arrested and 84 search warrants were issued in six states, according to a federal police statement.

Ricardo Teixeira resigned as head of the CBF in March, after the British Broadcasting Corp. named him as a beneficiary of bribes paid by FIFA’s bankrupt former marketing partner ISL in a separate case. He has denied the allegations.

“We can’t leave soccer in the hands of these guys,” former soccer star and now congressman Romario de Souza Faria said in a message on his Twitter account.

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