Argentine sought by US in FIFA scandal surrenders in Italy

ROME/BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Businessman Alejandro Burzaco, one of three Argentines wanted by US prosecutors in the FIFA bribery investigation, surrendered voluntarily to police in northern Italy on Tuesday, police said.

US prosecutors say Burzaco, 50, along with Hugo Jinkis, 70, and his son Mariano Jinkis, 40, conspired to win and keep lucrative media rights contracts from regional football federations by paying tens of millions of dollars in bribes.

Argentine media reported the father and son were in Argentina but their precise whereabouts were unknown. Police in the city of Bolzano, Italy, said they arrested Burzaco after he turned himself in at the police station accompanied by his lawyers.

Burzaco was one of nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives indicted in the United States on May 27 on charges of racketeering and corruption, rocking the sport.

Swiss police arrested seven past and current officials of world soccer’s governing body FIFA at a luxury hotel in Zurich and they face extradition to the United States. Of the remaining seven, Burzaco is in Italy while the rest, from various parts of the Americas and the Caribbean, either cannot be traced, are out on bail or under house arrest.

Burzaco is also being investigated by Argentina’s tax authority, which suspects him of tax evasion. He would have to be extradited from Italy, which is often slow and complicated, by either the United States or Argentina. Burzaco gave no explanation as to why he was in Bolzano.

Local media said he had rented a house outside the city and planned to request that he be given house arrest. Burzaco was president of Argentine sports marketing firm Torneos y Competencias (Torneos), when he was charged.

Hugo and Mariano Jinkis are controlling principals of Full Play, another sports media and marketing business headquartered in Argentina. The Argentine judge who ordered the three men’s arrest on May 28 said at the time that he did not know if they were in the country.

Argentine media widely published a tweet sent from Burzaco’s Twitter handle five days before the hotel raid in which he wrote that he was in London on his way to Zurich. The feed was removed after the charges were announced.

Torneos said in a statement on June 3 that board members had decided to remove Burzaco. Torneos also said it authorized company records to be preserved and to assist with the investigations.