Fifa arrests: US asks Switzerland to extradite officials

culled from BBC News

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 Fifa 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 “if sufficient grounds exist”, the FOJ statement said.

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. The seven Fifa officials now have 14 days to respond. From there the Swiss will rule on whether extradition is warranted. It is believed they all 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. 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.

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. They are currently being held in prisons around the Zurich region. 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 participating “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 international football tournaments. The corruption was planned in the US, even if it was then carried out elsewhere, the indictment said. The use of US banks to transfer money appears to have been key to the investigation.


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