Court hears former FIFA official’s appeal in bribery case

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Former FIFA official Marco Polo del Nero had his appeal heard at sport’s highest court on Tuesday against a life ban from soccer for taking millions of dollars in bribes.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport said the appeal — 2 ½ years after FIFA’s ethics committee banned the Brazilian official — was heard by video conference. Verdicts typically take several months.

Del Nero was indicted by United States federal prosecutors in November 2015 on financial conspiracy charges and risks arrest if he leaves Brazil. He has avoided extradition.

The 79-year-old Del Nero was a member of FIFA’s ruling executive committee and the president of the Brazilian Football Association when he fled Switzerland in May 2015. He left after several soccer officials were arrested in early morning hotel raids in Zurich that revealed a sprawling American investigation of corruption in international soccer.

Del Nero resigned from his $300,000-a-year seat on FIFA’s executive committee in November 2015. In the same week, he was indicted in the U.S. and FIFA’s ethics committee opened a formal investigation, though did not provisionally suspend him.

American prosecutors allege he took millions of dollars in kickbacks from commercial deals for South America’s top competitions, the Copa America and Copa Libertadores.

FIFA ethics judges found him guilty on charges of bribery and corruption, accepting gifts and conflict of interest.

Del Nero denied wrongdoing and argued at his appeal to FIFA last year that soccer’s world body should not take jurisdiction ahead of South American soccer body CONMEBOL and the Brazilian association.

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