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Brazilian Law Prohibits Extradition in FIFA Scandal

Brazilian Law Prohibits Extradition in FIFA Scandal

Out of the 14 people that US prosecutors say are involved in a global corruption scheme involving FIFA, only one has managed to elude arrest. José Margulies remains free, living in São Paulo, because the Brazilian constitution protects citizens from extradition except in cases of drug trafficking or crimes that occurred prior to them obtaining their Brazilian citizenship.

Margulies, a former broadcasting executive, was born in Argentina but is a naturalized Brazilian citizen. He also holds dual Polish and Argentinian citizenship, according to The New York Times. Although the constitution would allow Margulies to be extradited for crimes that occurred before he obtained Brazilian citizenship, it is unlikely that the relatively recent FIFA allegations would qualify. Margulies was naturalized in Brazil in 1973.

In May, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation issued a warrant for Margulies’ arrest. He is currently listed on the FBI’s wanted list for alleged crimes including racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering. According to Reuters, prosecutors claim that Margulies’ alleged crimes include wiring more than $3.5 million into the accounts of Venezuelan, Paraguayan, and Ugandan soccer officials.

Margulies was in Germany when he and the 13 others linked to the alleged FIFA corruption scandal were indicted. He returned to Brazil soon after.

“He’s living in Brazil as a free man because, according to Brazilian law, it’s impossible to charge him,” Margulies’ attorney Jair Jaloreto told The New York Times. “He’s old and sick, and he mostly prefers to stay home with his wife.”

In June, Jaloreto filed a motion with Brazil’s Supreme Court seeking to block the extradition of Margulies to the United States, Reuters reported. However, the court turned down that motion because there was not yet an active extradition process for Margulies.

It is common for countries to have laws that protect their citizens against extradition. Other officials who were arrested for their alleged involvement in the scandal are still fighting their extradition. But the difference for Margulies is that he has not yet been arrested. That hasn’t stopped Brazilian authorities from launching their own. That inquiry is expected to take at least a year.

While that investigation is underway, Margulies will remain free – but only as long as he stays in Brazil. Interpol is on the lookout for Margulies. If he travels outside of Brazil, he places himself at risk of arrest.