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FIFA executive committee member Leoz resigns

Photo: Cesar Olmedo/AP

Nicolas Leoz had led CONMEBOL since 1986 and was on FIFA's executive committee since 1998.

GENEVA (AP) -- FIFA executive committee member Nicolas Leoz of Paraguay resigned Tuesday, citing health reasons, just days before expected rulings in a World Cup kickbacks investigation.

FIFA said the 84-year-old confirmed his departure by letter and also will step down as president of CONMEBOL, South America's governing body. As CONMEBOL leader, he also held the largely ceremonial position chairing FIFA's 2014 World Cup organizing committee.

"This is a strictly personal decision. My mental health is very good but physically I'm not able to travel five times a year to Switzerland and two other times to Japan,'' Leoz said. "I also don't have the needed energy to stay as head of the 2014 World Cup organizing committee. I will not be able to travel to 10 cities (in Brazil) to approve stadiums. But I will continue to support FIFA and Brazil.''

Leoz, who has undergone several rounds of heart surgery, has been CONMEBOL's president since 1986 and a member of FIFA's executive committee since 1998.

He was identified during a Swiss criminal trial in 2008 as having received payments from FIFA's former marketing partner ISL, which collapsed into bankruptcy in 2001 with debts of around $300 million. The resulting prosecution of agency executives revealed the widespread practice of buying influence from sports officials.

Five years ago, Leoz was named in court papers for receiving $130,000 from ISL. The British broadcaster BBC later reported that Leoz took payments totaling $730,000.

Last year, FIFA published a Swiss prosecutor's report that linked President Sepp Blatter's predecessor, Joao Havelange, and Ricardo Teixeira, then head of the Brazilian 2014 World Cup organizing committee, to improper payments from ISL totaling $22 million.

Havelange remains FIFA's honorary president. Teixeira, his former son-in-law, resigned from soccer citing health problems before Switzerland's supreme court ruled the report should no longer be kept secret.

FIFA never opened proceedings against Leoz. He still could face FIFA sanctions after it closed a loophole in its code of ethics last year that previously allowed soccer officials who resigned to evade disciplinary action.

Leoz joined former executive committee colleagues Teixeira, Jack Warner of Trinidad and Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar in walking away from soccer while facing corruption allegations.

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