Scandal-Plagued Soccer Body Seeks Forensic Investigators

  • South America's Conmebol wants investigation into last 5 years
  • Accountancy Deloitte is working with Conmebol's new president

South America’s regional soccer body Conmebol, which has lost its last three presidents under the cloud of a global corruption scandal, is inviting forensic accountants to investigate its business affairs since 2011.

A sprawling U.S. Department of Justice investigation alleges money laundering and racketeering stretching back almost 20 years. Conmebol will hire a company to look back only for five years for a "technical reason," said a spokeswoman for Paraguay-based Conmebol.

The group also announced in a statement it had hired the accounting firm Deloitte LLP to work with its newest president Alejandro Dominguez. The 44-year-old Paraguayan has promised to usher in an era of transparency and good governance at the organization, which has long struggled with both.

Conmebol boasts two of the World Cup’s most successful nations, Brazil and Argentina, and its quadrennial Copa America is soccer’s oldest regional tournament. That contest is also central to the criminal investigations: The U.S. alleges three sports marketing companies paid $100 million in bribes for the rights to four editions of the competition.

The group has been based in Paraguay since 1990. Its former president Nicolas Leoz, who’s fighting extradition to the U.S., managed to convince the country’s parliament in 1997 to grant Conmebol a type of diplomatic immunity that’s usually reserved for foreign embassies. That was overturned following May’s first wave of arrests, and as recently as last month police acting on a U.S. request raided the organization’s offices.

On Monday, Dominguez removed a plaque from a wall in front of Conmebol’s headquarters that marked its territorial sovereignty. "Unfortunately this Paraguayan law was misused in the past,” he said in a statement. "Today we reaffirm our total and absolute rejection of corruption practices and we’re removing this plaque that signifies impunity."

Dominguez traveled for meetings with officials at the Vatican on Wednesday.

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