Fifa Arrests: US Asks Switzerland To Extradite Officials

Listen to article

The United States has asked Switzerland to extradite seven Fifa officials arrested on corruption charges in May, the Swiss authorities say.

Formal extradition requests were submitted on Wednesday, the Swiss Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) said.

The seven top executives arrested in Zurich are among 14 Fifa officials indicted on charges of “rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted” corruption.

The charges follow a major inquiry by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The FOJ said Zurich police, acting on its behalf, would give the seven officials a hearing over the extradition requests.

The officials and their lawyers would have 14 days to respond to the request, which could be extended, the FOJ statement said.

After that, the FOJ would give its decision “within a few weeks”, but warned that any ruling could be challenged in both the federal criminal court and the federal supreme court.

Analysis: BBC’s Imogen Foulkes, Bern
The formal extraditions were expected. They were delivered to Switzerland’s justice ministry late at night by US diplomats.

It is believed all seven Fifa officials plan to appeal – a process which could go all the way to Switzerland’s supreme court, and take months. The other option is to agree to a swift extradition, engage a lawyer in the US, and apply for bail.

The Swiss have made it clear they consider the detained officials to be a flight risk, and will not be granting bail.

Since the seven went from a five star hotel to a prison cell, some may try their luck in the US rather than face the certainty of months in detention in Switzerland.

Jeffrey Webb, Fifa vice-president in charge of North and Central America, was among those arrested by Swiss police in a raid on a luxury hotel in the early hours of 27 May.

The seven are among 14 defendants the US has charged with racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering conspiracies.

In a 47-count indictment unveiled in a New York federal court, they were accused of taking part “in a 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through the corruption of international soccer”.

The indictment alleges that US and South American sports marketing executives paid and agreed to pay “well over $150m” in bribes and other illegal payments to obtain lucrative media and marketing rights to football tournaments.

The corruption was planned in the US, the indictment said. The use of US banks to transfer money appears to have been key to the investigation.

The charges follow a three-year FBI investigation. It was initially sparked by the bidding process for the Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022 World Cups, but was then widened to look back at Fifa’s dealings over two decades.

Of the 14 charged, the most senior figures – including Mr Webb and former Fifa vice-president Jack Warner – are football powerbrokers in North America, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Fifa President Sepp Blatter has not been indicted, although both the US and Swiss authorities have said they may interview him as part of their investigations.

He was re-elected as president three days after the Zurich arrests, but later he announced he would curtail his presidency as the scandal threatened to engulf the organisation.