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Former Argentine official kills self amid FIFA corruption case

A former Argentine government official killed himself after being accused of taking bribes in testimony during a trial looking into corruption in world soccer.
Image; FIFA HQ
A FIFA logo next to the entrance during part I of the FIFA Council Meeting 2016 at the FIFA headquarters on October 13, 2016 in Zurich, Switzerland.Philipp Schmidli / Getty Images file
/ Source: The Associated Press

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — A former Argentine government official threw himself in front of a train and killed himself after being accused of taking bribes, the latest fallout from a widespread corruption probe in professional soccer that has implicated businessmen and top officials in several countries.

Jorge Delhon, a lawyer who worked in the administration of former Argentina President Cristina Fernandez, killed himself on Tuesday by jumping in front of a train in Buenos Aires.

A ministry official in Buenos Aires province confirmed the death. The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak on the subject.

"I love you all," Delhon wrote in a suicide note to his family, the ministry official told The Associated Press. "I can't believe (what's happening)."

Image: Juan Angel Napout of Paraguay
Juan Angel Napout of Paraguay, one of three defendants in the FIFA scand on trial in Brooklyn arrives at the Federal Courthouse in Brooklyn on Nov. 15, 2017 in New York.Don Emmert / AFP - Getty Images

The suicide came just hours after sports marketing executive Alejandro Burzaco told a judge in New York he had paid millions in bribes to Delhon and Pablo Paladino in exchange for TV production rights to soccer matches.

Paladino worked for the now defunct government program Futbol para Todos (Football for All), which broadcast local soccer matches on public TV. Delhon worked under Fernandez's chief of staff, and dealt with Futbol para Todos.

Paladino rejected Burzaco's claims, saying Futbol para Todos didn't have the budget or ability to make spending decisions.

"We could only broadcast," he told The Associated Press.

Paladino also said Fernandez's administration called the shots.

"They were politically responsible for the country. They took the political decisions, they bought the rights and later, in a third instance, there was a show like ours, where there were administrative issues in the cabinet chief's office," he said. "All we had to do was to broadcast it."

Image: Jose Maria Marin of Brazil
Jose Maria Marin of Brazil, one of three defendants in the FIFA scandal arrives at the Federal Courthouse in Brooklyn on Nov. 15, 2017 in New York.Don Emmert / AFP - Getty Images

The Fernandez government, which ended in 2015, created the free-to-air soccer program on Argentine public television. While giving more free access to Argentine soccer fans, Fernandez was sharply criticized for using the program to promote her government.

Earlier this year, an Argentine court opened criminal proceedings against two of Fernandez's former chiefs of staff — Anibal Fernandez (no relation) and Jorge Capitanich — for allegedly taking public funds earmarked for Futbol para Todos.

Burzaco's testimony continued Wednesday. He was testifying under a plea agreement against three former South American soccer officials accused of taking bribes in a sprawling corruption investigation of FIFA, the sport's governing body.

Jose Maria Marin, Manuel Burga and Juan Angel Napout have pleaded not guilty to charges they took part in a 24-year scheme involving at least $150 million in bribes that secured broadcasting and hosting rights for soccer tournaments around the globe.

More than 40 other officials and business executives been charged. Many, including Burzaco, have pleaded guilty in hopes of receiving reduced sentences.