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FIFAGATE (III)

“It was enough to buy pretty much anything one could want"

"To launder money they bought whole buildings, ranches and cars," says Confidant X of the workings at CONMEBOL.

Confidant X steps into the light. But only in his house. “Daddy, that’s you,” his son said when he sees the silhouette in the newspaper. “I didn’t know what to tell him. So I kept quiet. I looked at his mother out of the corner of my eye. Another silence.” She knew. She was part of the story. She lived with X. “I’m not at ease, but it needed to come out, to say what she’s been through. She’s more relaxed now. It was a weight off her shoulders.”

There are still a few stories to tell. “At CONMEBOL everybody knew what was going on, or at least they suspected it. But that didn’t stop us having a social life. We even took part in football tournaments. I played in several. They were usually held at Marcelo Toyotoshi’s ranch, the owner of Toyota in Paraguay. He was close to the directors of the South American federation and Toyota sponsored the Copa Libertadores. His is one of the big fortunes in the Americas. I played in games there and there were people like the former president of the Chilean federation or Juan Ángel Napout, the president of CONMEBOL, who was Leoz’s man and was the president of Cerro Porteño. We played football and then had a roast. It all looked perfectly normal.”

But it wasn’t. At least not in the South American federation run by Leoz. It’s enough to have a quick glance at the assets amassed by the former Fifa vice-president during his 26 years at the head of CONMEBOL: dozens of ranches, cars, other properties and even whole neighbourhoods, like Villa Morra, near Herrera, where he is currently under house arrest awaiting extradition to the United States. “To launder money they bought whole buildings, ranches and cars. In Leoz’s case, he shared practically everything with his wife, María Clemencia.”

Was it worth that much? “It was enough to buy pretty much anything one could want,” says Confidant X, who talks about a “fat split, of $10 million (he displays the receipt for that amount) that was deposited in CONMEBOL’s bank account, number 1280/7, and from which money was taken out on a regular basis and put in his personal account, number 1596/2 at the Bank of Brazil. Those $10 million came from a company called TT Sports Marketing in the US, and were transferred to Paraguay by the Brazilian American Merchant Bank in New York.” The US Attorney General is now looking into the origins of that money.

As well as buying the Bank of Brazil building in October 1998 for $953,000, the documents show purchases of millions of guaranis and dollars for almost 50 properties in the country. But some of his longest relationships were with people who had family members acting as front men. That’s the case with his personal secretary, Irmina Ortiz de Ezcurra, who ended up with a flotilla of 14 cars: six Toyotas, among them three Land Cruisers, five Mercedes, a Chevrolet, a Randon and a Mitsubishi L200.

Ortiz de Ezcurra is a key figure in the structure CONMEBOL. Leoz’s personal secretary, as well as her fleet of cars she lived in one of the most opulent houses in Asuncion: “A huge palace, bigger than the most impressive one you can imagine in Europe,” says Confidant X, who remembers it as “one of the most admired mansions in Asuncion.” Leoz’s secretary was vital, says X, because “she knew the workings of the federation and pulled the strings of the organization.” She was Leoz’s trusted lieutenant. “She worked with many banks in the country, where she moved the money around in guaranis. But she also made deposits in dollars in Panama, in her sister’s name.” In the documents X holds are transfers to Panamanian banks from an account number 183806 at the Bank of Brazil in Asuncion to a branch in Panama in the name of Gladys Galeano.

Confidant X’s story ends here... for now. He has promised to come back. “There are more stories, more documents, more names.... but at the moment I’m trying to organize everything. I’ll let you know. We can meet anytime, anywhere.” It will be a pleasure. He knows where we are. Until next time, X.

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