Zurich, May 27: Two vice presidents of FIFA, the world football governing body, are among seven officials arrested by the Swiss Federal Department of Justice and Police on corruption charges following an extradition request by the United States, authorities said on Wednesday.
Those who have been arrested include two vice presidents — Uruguay football federation boss Eugenio Figueredo and Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) head Jeffrey Webb.
The other FIFA executives include Costa Rican football federation head and CONCACAF executive member Eduardo Li, former Brazilian football federation (CBF) president Jose Maria Marin, and Julio Rocha, who serves as the head of two bodies — Central American Football Union (UNCAF) and the Nicaraguan football federation (FENIFUT).
Two other football officials who have been arrested are Cayman Islands Football Association (CIFA) general secretary and CONCACAF heavyweight Costas Takkas from Britain and Venezuelan football federation supremo Rafael Esquivel.
Those detained were here for activities at FIFA’s world headquarters prior to the organisation’s congress on Friday where it will elect its president for the next four years. It had been taken for granted that Sepp Blatter would be re-elected for a fifth term but Wednesday’s events may change that.
Zurich police officers in plainclothes descended on a luxury hotel at dawn, presented the relevant court orders, and received keys to the suspected officials’ rooms. The arrests were made peacefully. Six FIFA officials were arrested in the morning, while one was detained later in the day.
According to a note from the Federal Office of Justice, the bribery suspects, representatives of sports media and promotion firms, are alleged to have been involved in schemes to make payments worth more than $100 million to football functiories (FIFA delegates) and other functiories of FIFA sub-organisations.
“In return, it is believed that they received media, marketing, and sponsorship rights in connection with football tourments in Latin America,” the statement added.
The authorities indicated they intend to send those arrested to the United States, which has an extradition treaty with Switzerland, to stand trial in New York where a prosecutor accused them of accepting bribes from the early 1990s onwards, reports Efe.
“The US authorities suspect the arrested officials of having received or paid bribes totalling millions of dollars,” the Federal Office of Justice said in a statement.
According to the US extradition request, these crimes were agreed and prepared in the US and payments were made through American banks. The Swiss ministry of justice and police said a simplified procedure will apply to suspects who agree to immediate extradition.
In their case, Swiss authorities can immediately approve extradition to the US and order its execution. However, if the wanted persons oppose their extradition, the Swiss will invite the US to submit a formal extradition request within a 40-day deadline.
Meanwhile, the authorities concerned have ordered the blocking of accounts at several Swiss banks “through which bribes are claimed to have flowed”, a statement from the Swiss Federal Office of Justice said. (IANS)