December 11, 2015 / 11:15 PM / 3 years ago

South America's federation expects January elections after graft charges

ASUNCION (Reuters) - The South American Football Confederation, CONMEBOL, would likely have elections in January to re-organize its executive committee after U.S. corruption charges against top officials, the body’s interim president said on Friday.

Wilmar Valdez (R), interim president of the South American Football confederation CONMEBOL, speaks during a news conference in Luque, Paraguay, December 11, 2015. REUTERS/Jorge Adorno

CONMEBOL bosses met for the first time since the arrest in Zurich last week of confederation president Juan Angel Napout, who was one of 16 people charged with multimillion-dollar bribery schemes for marketing and broadcasting rights of tournaments and matches.

Napout, who swiftly agreed to be extradited to the United States, resigned from the top post by email on Thursday, CONMEBOL’s interim president Wilmar Valdez told a news conference.

“The committee will remain composed of the national federation presidents who are carrying out the roles,” Valdez said. “Its make-up will likely change in January.”

Valdez said Friday’s meeting had focused on the reforms needed to restore public confidence in South American soccer, but did not detail the changes needed.

CONMEBOL faces one of the worst crises of its history because it is caught up in the U.S. investigation of corruption in world soccer’s governing body FIFA. The head of the CONCACAF confederation that runs the sport in North, Central America and the Caribbean, Alfredo Hawit of Honduras, was also arrested last week.

Two of Napout’s former vice-presidents, Colombian Luis Bedoya and Chilean Sergio Jadue have already pleaded guilty to graft charges, while the confederation’s secretary-general Jose Luis Meiszner of Argentina and his predecessor were also indicted.

Meiszner has since resigned and handed himself over to police.

Valdez said it was time that “money went where it was meant to, which is the clubs.”

Valdez said CONMEBOL would keep cooperating with the U.S.-led investigation, which also involves prosecutors in Switzerland, where FIFA has its headquarters.

Reporting by Daniela Desantis and Mariel Cristaldo; Editing by Richard Lough and Grant McCool

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