Long arm of U.S. law may struggle to reach all FIFA defendants

Wed Jun 3, 2015 7:29pm EDT
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By David Ingram and Richard Lough

NEW YORK/BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - U.S. prosecutors may find it difficult to get a number of the people they have charged in the FIFA bribery scandal to face the music. Several cannot be found, and the authorities in some countries may not agree to extradition requests.

Of the nine current and former FIFA officials and five corporate executives indicted for running a criminal enterprise that involved more than $150 million in bribes, the whereabouts of three Argentines and one Brazilian remain unknown. Another two former FIFA officials in the Americas - one in Paraguay and the other in Trinidad and Tobago - are expected to resist extradition to the United States.

All of the seven defendants who were arrested in Zurich on May 27 during a surprise raid at a five-star hotel have said they will oppose extradition.

Only defendant Aaron Davidson, the chief of sports marketing firm Traffic's U.S. unit, is known to be in the United States. He pleaded not guilty last Friday in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, and is under house arrest.

The U.S. Justice Department has a good track record of persuading other countries to extradite criminal defendants and has a unit in Washington dedicated to that task, but the size and complexity of the FIFA-related bribery charges present a new test. That test could also increase if U.S. prosecutors, who say their investigation is far from over, bring charges against additional officials and executives.

A U.S. Justice Department spokesman on Wednesday declined to comment on the progress of extradition efforts.

MINIMUM PENALTY   Continued...

FIFA President Sepp Blatter leaves after his statement during a news conference at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, June 2, 2015.  REUTERS/Ruben Sprich