August 1, 2018 / 8:48 PM / 8 months ago

Peru football federation chief pressed to resign

LIMA (Reuters) - Peruvian Football Federation (FPF) President Edwin Oviedo is under growing pressure to resign as he faces accusations that he gave World Cup tickets to a judge who helped exclude him from a murder probe.

Peru’s prime minister, lawmakers and scores of Peruvians on social media have called for Oviedo to step down until he can clear his name. Oviedo has denied the accusations and vowed to resign only if he is found guilty of wrongdoing.

On Wednesday, the group’s sports director, Juan Carlos Oblitas, warned that the scandal looming over the federation could derail Peru’s bid to persuade widely respected coach Ricardo Gareca from signing a new four-year contract.

“This has to be solved. It’s that simple. If not, it’s going to be very hard for Ricardo to accept. ... He’s very nervous about current events,” Oblitas said, without elaborating.

Oblitas fell short of calling for Oviedo to resign. But he told journalists he felt “disgust, like all of you,” with wiretapped phone conversations published by local media in which Supreme Court Judge Cesar Hinostroza appears to be arranging to get tickets for the World Cup from Oviedo.

Hinostroza, Oviedo’s lawyer and Gareca did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Hinostroza, who is under investigation for influence peddling, was one of five judges who ruled in favour of excluding Oviedo from a murder probe in 2016. Public prosecutors suspected Oviedo of leading a criminal gang that killed workers of his former sugar company. Oviedo has denied involvement in any killings.

The recordings have sunk Peru’s football federation into a fresh scandal less than a year since Oviedo’s predecessor, Manuel Burga, was acquitted of racketeering conspiracy by a U.S. jury.

“I have not improperly used for my benefit any of the assets or patrimony of the FPF, nor have I used my position for personal ends,” Oviedo said in a statement on Monday. On Tuesday, all five members on an advisory committee for the federation resigned.

In interviews with local media, Hinostroza has denied committing any crimes and said he bought World Cup tickets himself.

Gareca, an Argentine, has been celebrated as a national hero in Peru since leading the team to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1982. Oblitas said Gareca’s “priority” was to stay in Peru, but noted he had plenty of other offers.

Reporting by Mitra Taj and Reuters TV; Editing by Richard Chang

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