Friday, October 23, 2020

U.S. judge denies bail for former S.American soccer boss convicted for bribery

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The former head of South American soccer will remain in a U.S. prison.

A federal judge on Tuesday denied the request by Juan Ángel Napout to be released on bail, four days after she rejected his application for compassionate release.

“The court finds that defendant has not demonstrated by ‘clear and convincing evidence’ that he ‘is not likely to flee,’” U.S. District Judge Pamela K. Chen wrote in a brief order. “If anything, the court finds that defendant’s incentive to flee is greater now than when he was initially remanded, given that defendant has been in prison for approximately 28 months and faces the prospect of having to return to prison for five more years if his appeal is unsuccessful.”

Napout, who is from Paraguay, was convicted in December 2017 of one count of racketeering conspiracy and two counts of wire fraud conspiracy related to bribes involving broadcast and marketing rights of South American tournaments.

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Napout, who turns 62 on May 13, is serving a nine-year sentence and is scheduled for release on Aug. 9, 2025. His attempt to overturn the verdict is pending before the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but Chen concluded the appeal did not raise a substantial legal issue likely to lead to a reversal.

Citing the coronavirus pandemic, Napout filed a request for compassionate release with the Bureau of Prisons on March 30, and the bureau has 30 days to make a decision. Chen ruled Friday he had not exhausted his administrative remedies.

Napout is held at the low-security Federal Correctional Institution in Miami, which prosecutors said has not had any coronavirus cases.

“The court does not find that defendant’s particular circumstances, as they relate to the COVID-19 pandemic, justify his release pending appeal or lessen the risk of flight he poses,” Chen wrote. “Accordingly, release pending appeal is denied.”

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Napout was president of the South American governing body CONMEBOL from August 2014 until December 2015, president of the Paraguayan Football Association from 2007-14 and a member of FIFA’s executive committee. He was arrested in Zurich while attending FIFA meetings in December 2015.

Napout was banned for life from soccer by FIFA last September and fined 1 million Swiss francs (then $1.01 million). He has appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and a hearing is scheduled for May 13.

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