June 2, 2016 / 11:20 PM / 3 years ago

Peru court OKs U.S. extradition of ex-soccer boss in FIFA probe

LIMA (Reuters) - A Peruvian court on Thursday ruled the former head of the country’s soccer federation could be extradited to the United States as part of a far-reaching investigation into corruption at the heart of the sport’s governing body FIFA.

An effigy of former President of the Peruvian Football Federation Manuel Burga is seen in a market in Lima, Peru, December 30, 2015. REUTERS/Mariana Bazo

The court ruling must be approved by the justice ministry before Manuel Burga, who led the Peruvian Football Federation (FPF) until 2014, can be extradited.

The charge of criminal conspiracy substantiated the extradition request, but the court presided over by Judge Javier Villa Stein decided that four other charges including money laundering and electronic fraud brought by U.S. prosecutors were not grounds for extradition.

Burga is one of more than a dozen current and former Latin American soccer chiefs whom U.S. prosecutors have charged in connection with multimillion-dollar bribery schemes for marketing and broadcast rights.

Burga denied any wrongdoing when he was arrested outside his home in Lima in December under an international warrant.

Burga’s attorney, Cesar Nakazaki, said on local radio station RPP that he disagreed with the ruling and was evaluating next steps.

Burga headed the FPF for 12 years until 2014 when the federation blocked him from running for a fourth term as criticism grew over his management.

The court ruling said the United States did not provide information requested in March to substantiate the money laundering charge. It added that an accusation of electronic fraud could not be grounds for extradition because it is not a penal crime in Peru.

The U.S. Embassy in Lima did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Earlier this month a former FIFA official from Nicaragua, Julio Rocha, pleaded not guilty in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, to charges including racketeering conspiracy, money laundering and wire fraud.

The office of Peru’s attorney general has been investigating the current president of the federation, Edwin Oviedo, on suspicions he led a criminal gang that killed workers who had been seeking better wages from his sugar company. Oviedo has denied wrongdoing.

Reporting By Mitra Taj; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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