The United States government filed formal requests asking Switzerland to extradite seven FIFA officials who were arrested in Zurich in May as part of a corruption investigation, the Swiss Federal Office of Justice said Thursday.
The men were arrested at a luxury hotel in Zurich on May 27 just days before FIFA’s congress. Those arrested include FIFA vice president Jeffrey Webb; former CONMEBOL Vice President Eugenio Figueredo; Costa Rican soccer federation president Eduardo Li; Former Brazilian federation chief Jose Maria Marin; Venezuela FA chief Rafael Esquivel; FIFA staffer Julio Rocha; and British businessman Costas Takkas.
"The requests are based on the arrest warrants issued on May 20, 2015 by the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York, which is investigating the high-ranking FIFA officers on suspicion of taking bribes worth over $100 million,” the Swiss FOJ said in a statement. “These crimes are thought to have been agreed and prepared in the USA, and payments were allegedly routed through US banks.”
A total of 14 people were indicted and charged with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies by the United States Justice Department, which accused FIFA of decades of "rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted" corruption by members of world soccer's governing body.
Swiss federal prosecutors opened separate criminal proceedings relating to the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which were won by Russia and Qatar, respectively.
Four other men have already pleaded guilty to crimes, including former FIFA executive panel member Chuck Blazer, who admitted to being part of a $10 million bribe scheme with former FIFA vice president Jack Warner for supporting South Africa's successful bid to host the 2010 World Cup.
The investigations had ripple efforts on the sport’s credibility and led to FIFA president Sepp Blatter saying he would step down by the end of the year, as well as the postponement of the bidding process for the 2026 World Cup. Blatter is under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. prosecutors as part of the corruption probe and has denied any wrongdoing.
The Federal Office of Justice say they will give the seven indicted FIFA officials a hearing on the extradition requests and that they have 14 days to respond to that request, with a judgment on the matter expected “within a few weeks.” Any ruling can be appealed to Switzerland's top criminal court and supreme court.
- Scooby Axson