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Judge denies house arrest to 'Fifagate' former CONMEBOL president

Former South American football boss Juan Angel Napout had asked to be released from prison to house arrest on compassionate grounds, the day after announcing he had COVID-19
Former South American football boss Juan Angel Napout had asked to be released from prison to house arrest on compassionate grounds, the day after announcing he had COVID-19 Don EMMERT AFP/File
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New York (AFP)

A New York federal judge on Tuesday refused to grant early release to former South American football boss Juan Angel Napout, who is serving a nine-year corruption sentence and has contracted COVID-19.

Napout tested positive for the coronavirus on July 16 and is one of 95 out of the total 700 inmates in the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Miami.

Brooklyn federal judge Pamela Chen said in a telephone hearing that the former football chief is currently asymptomatic.

Chen rejected Napout's request to serve the rest of his sentence under house arrest because she does not believe his situation is "extraordinary" or "life-threatening."

The judge determined that releasing Napout would be "unfair... when every single inmate is under the same conditions."

Napout's lawyer, Marc Weinstein, argued that his 62-year-old client suffers from anxiety and hypertension.

"The combination is a deadly one because once, if you have hypertension, and you get this disease, which causes all sorts of problems internally, you are more susceptible to a severe reaction to the COVID itself," Weinstein said during the hearing.

Napout is serving "a much harsher sentence" than originally imposed because he has been in isolation for four and a half months due to the pandemic, Weinstein added.

Prosecutor Kirstin Mace noted that Napout is "healthy, fortunately," and has no symptoms.

Mace asked that Napout not be released because he has served a small portion of his sentence, less than a third of the total. She also said he never took responsibility for the corruption scandal and tried to obstruct justice.

Paraguayan Napout was sentenced in 2017 in relation to the "Fifagate" corruption scandal.

He was convicted of racketeering and wire fraud over the awarding of television and marketing rights for major events in exchange for kickbacks while he was president of South American football's governing body, CONMEBOL.

Napout's sentence was the longest of any of the 45 people accused in the scandal that rocked world football's governing body FIFA.

The former FIFA vice-president was also fined $1 million and ordered to repay $3.3 million in bribes he received.

The $200 million bribery scandal led to the arrests of dozens of football executives -- many of them Latin American -- and culminated in the downfall of then FIFA boss Sepp Blatter.

Napout's lawyer announced Monday that he had contracted coronavirus. The news came just over a week after a federal judge in New York rejected for the second time a request from Napout to be released to house arrest on compassionate grounds.

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