One of the seven FIFA officials held in Switzerland as part of an investigation
into massive corruption at football’s governing body has been extradited to
the United States, the Swiss justice ministry said Thursday.
Swiss authorities last week confirmed that one of the FIFA suspects wanted
by the US had accepted extradition and that the prisoner transfer was likely
to be approved quickly.
Justice ministry spokesman Raphael Frei declined to name the official, saying
only that he was extradited on Wednesday.
“He was handed over to a three-man US police escort in Zurich who accompanied
him on the flight to New York,” the spokesman said in a statement.
The Wall Street Journal on July 10 reported that Jeffrey Webb of the Cayman
Islands, a former FIFA vice-president, was the suspect who agreed to be sent
to the US.
All seven FIFA officials wanted by American prosecutors were arrested in a
dawn raid on a Zurich hotel on May 27, accused of involvement in more than $150
million of bribes given for marketing deals for football tournaments in North
and South America.
According to Swiss authorities, the extradited man is accused by the US Justice
Department of pocketing millions of dollars in connection with the sale of marketing
rights to several sports marketing firms.
He allegedly took bribes while selling rights for World Cup matches, regional
tournaments and championships in North and South America.
The six remaining FIFA officials wanted by the US authorities — all from South
America or the CONCACAF zone of North and Central America and the Caribbean
— have not yet agreed to be extradited.
Aside from Webb, the group includes Eugenio Figueredo from Uruguay — also
an ex-FIFA vice president — Costa Rican Eduardo Li, who was supposed to join
the FIFA Executive Committee in May.
There was also Brazilian football federation chief Jose Maria Marin, Nicaraguan
Julio Rocha and Costas Takkas, a Briton who worked for the Cayman Islands federation
and Rafael Esquivel, president of the Venezuelan Football Federation.
The arrests ignited an unprecedented crisis at FIFA, with the body’s president
Sepp Blatter ultimately agreeing to stand down.
Blatter, 79, has denied any wrongdoing, saying he bears no responsibility for
any misdeeds committed by his deputies.
The extradition of the FIFA suspect comes ahead of a July 20 meeting in Zurich,
where the body’s executive committee is expected to set out the timetable to
determine the election for Blatter’s replacement.
Commentators, and even sources close to Blatter, have not ruled out the prospect
of the embattled FIFA president reversing his decision to resign and standing
Meanwhile, FIFA’s ethics committee on Thursday made a demand for wider powers
in its pursuit of uncovering corruption, notably calling for greater transparency
in proceedings against accused parties.
The independent watchdog listed various demands in a statement released hours
after the extradition to the United States of the FIFA official.
The committee’s demands included the ability to confirm ongoing proceedings
against accused parties “upon request” and to justify judgements publically,
even if the decision has not yet become legally effective.
“Transparency should be accorded greater importance in the future when
weighing up the protection of privacy against disclosure,” said Cornel
Borbely, the Ethics Committee’s investigatory chamber chairman.