Graft-tainted Philippine football official denied travel

Agence France-Presse

Posted at May 29 2015 07:02 PM | Updated as of May 30 2015 03:02 AM

A Philippine FIFA official facing corruption charges has been banned from flying to Switzerland to attend the organisation's congress, a local court said Friday.

Monico Puentevella, a board member of FIFA's marketing and television committee, is out on bail after being charged in 2013 with misusing more than $500,000 in state funds when he was a congressman.

A clerk at the court hearing the case told AFP the 68-year-old, now the mayor of the central city of Bacolod, had asked for permission to visit Switzerland for "almost three weeks" for the congress, but this was denied.

Puentevella had successfully delayed the start of his trial, scheduled for May 14, by submitting a doctor's report claiming he was in hospital with "stress-related hypertension", according to the court's ruling.

But he later submitted a different doctor's report stating he was fit to travel to Switzerland for the FIFA congress, said the verdict, which was delivered this week and released to AFP on Friday.

The Manila court, which handles only corruption cases, described Puentevella's varying medical conditions as "incongruous" and "not acceptable", according to the verdict.

State prosecutors allege Puentevella illegally rigged a government contract worth about 26 million pesos ($583,000) meant to provide computers to state-run schools in his district.

Puentevella held the city's seat for three terms between 2001 and 2010. He is one of dozens of politicians who have been charged in recent years over similar scams, in which they are accused of stealing vast sums of money.

The ruling was handed down as Swiss police raided a Zurich hotel and arrested seven high-ranking FIFA officials this week at the request of the United States on racketeering conspiracy and corruption charges.

The US indictments, made against 14 defendants, pertained to tens of millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks the FIFA officials allegedly took for lucrative television broadcasting rights for football tournaments.

The FIFA website said the board of which Puentevella is a member "shall advise the Executive Committee with regard to drafting and implementing contracts between FIFA and its various marketing/television partners".

Puentevella's chief aide said the mayor, also a former chairman of the Philippine Olympic Committee, was not in his office Friday and declined to comment on the case against him.

"I can't answer on behalf of the mayor," his executive assistant, Maya Fe Tresfuentes, told AFP.

Philippine Football Federation spokeswoman Virgie de Guzman also declined to comment, adding Puentevella did not hold any post in the national federation.