United States asks Swiss to extradite seven in FIFA inquiry

Thu Jul 2, 2015 6:18pm EDT
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By Joshua Franklin and Stephanie Nebehay

ZURICH/GENEVA (Reuters) - The United States has asked Switzerland to extradite seven FIFA officials arrested in an investigation into a global bribery scandal at soccer's governing body, the Swiss Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) said on Thursday.

The move marks the start of a legal process expected to last several months during which the officials, who have been in jail since their detention on U.S. arrest warrants in May, will either keep fighting extradition to the United States or agree to go.

The arrests of the seven, including two then-members of FIFA's executive committee, took place in a raid on a luxury Zurich hotel on May 27, two days before FIFA's annual congress, pitching the organization into turmoil.

U.S. prosecutors say their investigation - which is running parallel to a separate Swiss inquiry - exposes complex money laundering schemes, millions of dollars in untaxed incomes and tens of millions in offshore accounts held by FIFA officials.

The seven were among 14 people charged in cases involving more than $150 million in bribes over a period of 24 years. Those being held in Switzerland include Jeffrey Webb, the former president of FIFA's Americas confederation CONCACAF, and Eugenio Figueredo, who sat on the executive committee at the time of their arrest.

The FOJ said it would rule on the extradition requests within a few weeks, based on statutory hearings and the responses of the FIFA officials.

Edward O'Callaghan, a New York-based lawyer representing Webb, declined to comment on the extradition request and a lawyer for Figueredo did not respond to requests for comment.

The U.S. Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.   Continued...

A staff walks past a logo of soccer's international governing body FIFA at their headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, May 27, 2015.  REUTERS/Ruben Sprich