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Paraguay Questions Immunity Granted to Soccer Body

PARAGUAY / 2 JUN 2015 BY DAVID GAGNE EN

Paraguay's Congress is considering a bill that would remove the diplomatic immunity currently enjoyed by the governing body of South America's soccer association, a move that would likely facilitate investigations of corruption within the confederation. 

On May 29, the president of Paraguay's Senate, Blas Llano, introduced a legislative proposal to strip the South American Football Confederation (Conmebol) of immunity from investigation at its headquarters in the city of Luque, reported EFE. Under current Paraguayan law, prosecutors and police are prohibited from searching Conmebol's offices as part of a criminal investigation, according to ABC Color

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Law enforcement is banned from searching Conmebol's headquarters in Paraguay. Image c/o ABC Color. 

The new bill was introduced to Congress just days after the US Department of Justice (DOJ) indicted nine high-ranking members of soccer's world governing body, FIFA, and five sports executives for soliciting $150 million in bribes and kickbacks. According to the DOJ (pdf), in 2013, sports marketing company Datisa agreed to pay out $100 million in bribes to the association's ten federation presidents and one additional official. At that time, the current head of Conmebol, Juan Angel Napout, was Paraguay's federation president, reported El Pais

Napout has not been charged with any crime. However, two former Conmebol presidents, Nicolas Leoz and Eugenio Figueredo, were identified as among those who had solicited or received bribe money. Figueredo was arrested in Switzerland as part of the FIFA corruption case. 

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Eugenio Figueredo and Nicolas Leoz, ex-Conmebol presidents and FIFIA officials who were arrested

InSight Crime Analysis

Although former high-level Conmebol officials have already been indicted by the US government, Paraguay's immunity law has likely prevented prosecutors from obtaining further evidence of criminal activity within the soccer confederation. Despite the criminal charges leveled against Conmebol's former presidents, Paraguayan and US authorities have yet to gain access to other potentially incriminating documents held at the organization's headquarters, according to El Pais. If Paraguay were to repeal this law, this would quite likely impact any future investigation into other senior Conmebol officials -- such as Napout -- who are suspected of having received bribe money. 

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Soccer and Crime

The diplomatic immunity Conmebol has received for nearly two decades in Paraguay is illustrative of the legal gray area in which FIFA operates within host countries. Some experts have blamed this lack of government oversight and regulation for the apparent widespread corruption within the world's most powerful sports organization.

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