November 26 - Marco Polo Del Nero, Brazil's FIFA Executive Committee member, has been interrogated by police investigating financial crimes and extortion – the latest blow to the image of both football's world governing body and the 2014 World Cup hosts.
Del Nero (pictured top), vice-president of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) and President of the São Paulo State Football Federation (FPF), denies any wrongdoing, saying he has "nothing to fear" and insisting the investigation has nothing to do with his footballing duties.
According to Brazilian reports, 33 people were arrested and 84 search warrants issued in six states as part of a massive operation.
Del Nero was questioned after police searched his home for documents.
A criminal lawyer by profession, he said his testimony was unrelated to soccer but he is apparently being investigated for alleged links to a criminal organisation engaged in illegal spying and extortion of politicians suspected of fraud.
The investigation, which began in 2009, uncovered a "major network of espionage made up of people selling privileged information," Federal police said in a statement.
Police did not say if Del Nero would be the subject of any criminal charges but the pre-dawn raid of his home in São Paulo came at an awkward time in terms of public relations.
Del Nero, 71, is a member of Brazil 2014 and the case has cast unwanted adverse publicity on Brazil and FIFA during an important week for both of them.
Last March, after concerted claims of corruption against him, Ricardo Teixeira resigned as head of the CBF after more than two decades on the job, citing health issues, and the current incident is the last thing that was needed, coinciding with the annual Soccerex conference followed by Saturday's (December 1) glamour draw for next year's Confederations Cup.
Asked about the case, FIFA general secretary Jérôme Valcke, whose main task at present is making sure Brazilian World Cup preparations remain on track, cautioned against jumping to conclusions.
But he also suggested that FIFA could conduct its own inquiry.
"We have an Ethics Committee with the freedom to investigate any member of FIFA but we can't just accuse people," Valcke told reporters at Soccerex in Rio de Janeiro.
"We are all innocent until proven guilty."
Del Nero has taken on a greater role in Brazilian football following Teixeira's resignation and was involved in the CBF's surprise decision last week to fire Mano Menezes as coach of Brazil's national team just 18 months before the World Cup finals.
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