US formally asks Switzerland to extradite FIFA officials

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By Alasdair Sandford
US formally asks Switzerland to extradite FIFA officials

<p>The United States has formally asked Switzerland to extradite <a href="http://www.euronews.com/2015/05/27/football-s-most-powerful-figures-await-extradition-to-us/">seven <span class="caps">FIFA</span> officials arrested at the end of May</a> in a corruption inquiry. </p> <p>It is <a href="http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2015/05/27/how-will-the-u-s-extradite-fifa-officials-from-switzerland/">the first stage in what looks set to be a long procedure</a> – up to six months according to Swiss authorities – as those being held had previously indicated that they would oppose extradition.</p> <p>The Swiss Federal Office of Justice (<span class="caps">FOJ</span>) said <a href="https://www.bj.admin.ch/bj/en/home/aktuell/news/2015/2015-07-02.html">in a news release</a> that the US embassy in Bern submitted the formal requests on Wednesday, in line with a bilateral extradition treaty.</p> <p>The demand was expected: US authorities had until July 3 to submit a formal request or ask for an extension.</p> <p>The officials have 14 days to respond. The <span class="caps">FOJ</span> says it will rule on extradition within a few weeks after the detainees have been interviewed by the Zurich Cantonal Police – a decision which may then be subject to appeal.</p> <p>The seven are among 14 people – senior <span class="caps">FIFA</span> officials plus figures from other governing bodies connected to the organisation – who were <a href="http://www.justice.gov/usao/nye/pr/May15/2015-May-27.php">charged by New York judicial authorities</a> with offences including racketeering and bribery following an investigation by the <span class="caps">FBI</span>.</p> <p>The seven being held in Swiss jails and the subject of extradition requests include Jeffrey Webb – who was suspended as president of <span class="caps">FIFA</span>’s Americas confederation <span class="caps">CONCACAF</span> in the wake of the arrests.</p> <p>The others are Eugenio Figueredo of Uruquay, Eduardo Li from Costa Rica, Brazilian Jose Maria Marin, Venezuelan Rafael Esquivel, Julio Rocha from Nicaragua, and British-born businessman Costas Takkas.</p> <p>Another former <span class="caps">CONCACAF</span> president and <span class="caps">FIFA</span> vice-president, Jack Warner, handed himself into police in his native Trinidad and Tobago after a warrant was issued for his arrest, and was bailed pending extradition to the US. </p> <p>Attorney General Loretta Lynch described the alleged corruption within <span class="caps">FIFA</span> as “rampant, systemic and deep-rooted”. Those charged are accused of being part of “a 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through the corruption of international soccer”.</p> <p>It was later alleged that ten million dollars paid by the South African Football Association ended up in accounts controlled by Warner – the suggestion being that <a href="http://www.euronews.com/2015/06/02/fifagate-further-pressure-on-blatter-as-allegations-of-10m-dollar-bribe-emerge/">the money was a bribe in exchange for support</a> for South Africa’s hosting of the 2010 World Cup. </p> <p>As <a href="http://www.euronews.com/2015/06/03/fifa-s-week-of-rolling-heads/">the world’s spotlight shone on <span class="caps">FIFA</span>’s activities</a> in the wake of the arrests in Zurich on May 27, the long-standing president of world football’s governing body Sepp Blatter finally <a href="http://www.euronews.com/2015/06/03/blatter-resigns-as-fifa-president-amid-reports-fbi-is-set-to-investigate-his/">announced he would step down</a>, days after being re-elected. </p> <p>Blatter has not been arrested or charged, although US and Swiss authorities have not ruled out wanting to interview him.</p> <p>The outgoing <span class="caps">FIFA</span> president – due to hand over the reins at an extraordinary congress next winter – has said he will not travel to the Women’s World Cup Final in Canada on Sunday.</p> <p>In <a href="http://www.bunte.de/wirtschaft/sepp-blatter-ich-bin-nicht-korrupt-123726.html">an interview with German magazine Bunte</a> and <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/football/2015/jul/01/sepp-blatter-fifa-heaven-one-day">reported in The Guardian</a>, Blatter strongly denies being corrupt and insists he has a clean conscience.</p> <p>Swiss authorities are also pursuing criminal inquiries into <span class="caps">FIFA</span>’s awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively.</p>