US asks Switzerland to extradite seven jailed in FIFA probe

Swiss authorities confirm US submitted formal extradition requests for seven men in connection to US DOJ’s corruption probe into FIFA practices

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

The United States has asked Switzerland to extradite the seven FIFA officials arrested in Zurich in May in connection to a global bribery scandal at football’s governing body on Wednesday.

Switzerland’s Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) said on Thursday that US authorities filed a formal extradition request before the July 3 deadline.

“On July 1, the US embassy in Bern sent Switzerland formal extradition requests, within the timeframe set down in the bilateral extradition treaty,” Swiss authorities said in a statement.

The seven officials, among whom were two of FIFA’s executive committee members, were arrested on May 27 in an early morning raid on a luxury Zurich hotel and have since been in jail.

FIFA’s annual congress was scheduled to take place two days after the arrests and the organisation has been shaken with allegations of bribery and racketeering worth more than $150 million involving men in eminent positions.

The seven men are among 14 accused of “rampant, systemic and deep-rooted” corruption. Al Jazeera reported that all seven men who - if convicted - face around 20 years in prison have already objected to the extradition.

The fourteen men - nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives from North and South America - indicted by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) are charged with offences that include money laundering, wire fraud and racketeering. Four more men have pled guilty in the far-reaching case.

US prosecutors say that their investigation reveals everything from untaxed incomes to offshore accounts and complex money laundering schemes. The three-year US Federal Bureau of Investigation probe is running parallel to a separate Swiss one.

Swiss authorities are investigating 53 possible money laundering incidents related to the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively.

Swiss attorney general Michael Lauber called the case “huge and complex” and that the transactions were flagged by Switzerland’s anti-money laundering system and dutifully reported by banks.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter who has not been arrested or indicted remains a person of interest that both American and Swiss authorities have said they would not rule out interviewing, BBC reports.

Blatter was reelected as FIFA president only three days after the Zurich protests but has since announced he would step down in the wake of the scandal surrounding the football organisation.

The seven executives whom the US would like to extradite are Jeffrey Webb, FIFA vice president in charge of North and Central America, Eugenio Figueredo, former FIFA vice president, Eduardo Li, Costa Rican football federation president, Jose Maria Marin, former Brazilian federation chief, Rafael Esquivel, Venezuela Football Association chief, Julio Rocha, FIFA staffer, and Costas Takkas, an employee of CONCACAF President Webb.

TRTWorld and agencies