January 8, 2016 / 12:30 AM / 2 years ago

Paraguay officials raid South American soccer confederation CONMEBOL

People work in the offices of CONMEBOL in Luque, Paraguay, January 7, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Adorno

ASUNCION (Reuters) - Paraguayan state prosecutors on Thursday raided the headquarters of South American soccer confederation CONMEBOL after a request for cooperation from U.S. justice officials probing corruption inside world soccer, the prosecution office said.

CONMEBOL lawyer Cristóbal Cáceres said the raid was linked to the case pending in the United States against former long-time confederation chief Nicolás Leoz, who was indicted for corruption and is facing extradition.

The raid sought documents detailing “business concessions and broadcasting rights for sporting events,” the prosecution office said in a statement. It was led by two prosecutors who specialize in money laundering and financial crimes.

U.S. indictments against 41 defendants, including senior soccer officials from South and Central America, include schemes that involved hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks sought for marketing and television rights to tournaments and matches.

“We are providing the documents that are being asked for,” Cáceres said, adding that “some of the documents pertaining to doctor Leoz are not here.”

The headquarters building is on the outskirts of Paraguay’s capital city, Asuncion, where Leoz, 87, has under house arrest since May, after being indicted.

Two other soccer bosses, a former president of Honduras and a former head of CONMEBOL, last month pleaded not guilty to U.S. charges they took bribes in exchange for media and marketing contracts. [nL1N144296]

Rafael Callejas, who was president of Honduras from 1990 to 1994 and later became president of its soccer federation, and Juan Angel Napout, a Paraguayan and former head of CONMEBOL, went to the United States voluntarily after their indictment was unsealed on Dec. 3.

They are among 41 people and entities charged in a U.S. corruption sweep that has sent soccer’s world governing body, FIFA, into an unprecedented crisis.

Napout is charged with soliciting bribe payments from two sports marketing firms to secure his support for awarding commercial rights to soccer tournaments, including the popular Copa Libertadores.

In parallel investigations, Swiss and U.S. authorities are focusing on whether business contracts and the World Cup hosting rights for 2018 in Russia and 2022 in Qatar were won with the help of bribery.

Reporting by Daniela Desantis, writing by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Lisa Shumaker

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