Buenos Aires (AFP) – Diego Maradona’s doctor was questioned by prosecutors Monday in an investigation into claims that he and six other medical personnel had neglected the ailing football icon in his final days, precipitating his death.
The appearance of Leopoldo Luque, 39, closes a two-week process of interrogation, with the seven having appeared one by one to defend themselves against the accusations.
The neurosurgeon arrived at the prosecutor’s office in San Isidro, Buenos Aires, in a dark suit and tie and dark glasses an hour before his hearing was due to start, declining to make a statement to waiting journalists.
Judicial sources told AFP his lawyers had submitted a document to prosecutors ahead of the hearing that is expected to last several hours.
Maradona died of a heart attack last November at the age of 60, weeks after undergoing brain surgery for a blood clot.
Luque, who has described the sporting legend as a friend, was in charge of his medical team, which a board of experts found had provided inadequate care and abandoned the idolized player to his fate for a “prolonged, agonizing period” before he was found dead in bed.
A judge will next decide whether to order a trial, in a process that could take years. The suspects risk between eight and 25 years in jail if found guilty.
An investigation was opened following a complaint filed by two of Maradona’s five children against neurosurgeon Luque, whom they blame for their father’s deterioration after the operation.
A panel of 20 medical experts convened by Argentina’s public prosecutor said last month that Maradona’s treatment was rife with “deficiencies and irregularities.”
The panel concluded he “would have had a better chance of survival” with adequate treatment in an appropriate medical facility.
Instead, he died alone in a rented house in an exclusive Buenos Aires neighborhood where he was receiving home care.
– ‘I did my best’ –
Luque has repeatedly denied guilt and recently said, “I’m proud of what I did” to assist the patient, denying he had abandoned him.
“I did my best. I offered Diego everything I could: some things he accepted, others not,” he said.
The doctor is seeking a dismissal of the case and says Maradona had been depressed in his final days.
“I know that the (coronavirus) quarantine hit him very hard,” Luque has said.
The doctor could on Monday decline to respond to questions and submit a written statement instead.
Last week, a lawyer for co-accused nurse Dahiana Madrid, 36, told prosecutors the senior members of the team taking care of Maradona had “killed Diego.”
“In the end, there were many warning signs that Maradona was going to die, give or take a day. And none of the doctors did anything to prevent it,” attorney Rodolfo Baque said at the time.
The other five people under suspicion are nurse Ricardo Almiron, 37; nursing coordinator Mariano Perroni, 40; medical coordinator Nancy Forlini, 52; psychologist Carlos Diaz, 29; and psychiatrist Agustina Cosachov, 36.
All have denied responsibility for Maradona’s death.
Maradona had battled cocaine and alcohol addictions for years.
The former Boca Juniors, Barcelona and Napoli star was suffering from liver, kidney and cardiovascular disorders when he died.
Maradona became an idol to millions of Argentines after he inspired the South American country to only their second World Cup triumph in 1986.
His death shocked fans around the world, and tens of thousands queued to file past his coffin, draped in the Argentine flag, at the presidential palace in Buenos Aires amid three days of national mourning.