Brazil Soccer Head Pleads for Protection Amid Corruption Inquiry

  • Marco Polo del Nero hasn't left Brazil amid ongoing FBI probe
  • Del Nero's predecessor faces racketeering charges in the U.S.

The beleaguered head of Brazil’s soccer federation asked a court for immunity ahead of a possible appearance before a parliamentary committee investigating corruption in the sport.

Marco Polo del Nero has been under a cloud since his predecessor, Jose Maria Marin, was indicted in the U.S., arrested in a dawn raid in Switzerland and extradited to New York. The charges against Marin include racketeering, money laundering and wire fraud related to the sale of marketing and television rights to the Brazilian Cup and two South American competitions, the Copa Libertadores and the Copa America. The indictment also mentions two unidentified co-conspirators whose details are similar to Del Nero and former Brazil soccer head Ricardo Teixeira.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has said she expects more charges in the case. So far 14 soccer leaders and sports marketing executives, almost all from the Americas, have been indicted. Del Nero, who has not been charged, returned to Brazil after the Swiss raid amid extradition fears, and has not left the country since.

Appearing before the parliamentary committee, known locally as CPI, is mandatory. The group is headed by former World Cup-winning soccer-player-turned politician Romario, a long-time critic of Brazilian soccer leaders.

Del Nero’s lawyers asked the Brazilian Supreme Court that he be allowed to remain silent, be assisted by a lawyer and not be compelled to take an oath promising to tell the truth, according to a document e-mailed by the court’s press office.

“He’s using his constitutional rights,” said a spokesman for Brazil’s soccer federation.

The court has not ruled on the request because del Nero has yet to be officially called to appear before the panel.

Though the Brazilian Senate’s inquiry cannot result in direct charges, the report will be sent to Brazil’s prosecutor general. The CPI is the second effort by parliament members to look at how the country’s soccer federation operates amid decades of allegations of corruption and wrongdoing there.

Del Nero failed to show up with the Brazil delegation at the Copa America in Chile and skipped the last three meetings of the FIFA executive committee, on which he holds one of the three positions reserved for South America.

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