Swiss approve extradition of ex-FIFA official Rocha to U.S

Thu Oct 15, 2015 9:48am EDT
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ZURICH (Reuters) - Switzerland's Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) on Thursday approved the extradition of ex-FIFA official Julio Rocha to the United States, one of seven people arrested at a Zurich hotel in May as part of a clampdown on alleged corruption in soccer.

The United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York accuses Rocha of demanding and taking bribes of $150,000 in connection with the sale of marketing rights to World Cup qualifying games.

In all, 14 people were indicted by U.S. authorities on May 27, throwing soccer's governing body FIFA into the worst crisis in its 111-year history.

Following the arrests, Swiss authorities began their own investigation and last month opened criminal proceedings against FIFA president Sepp Blatter for criminal mismanagement.

He was then banned for 90 days by FIFA's own ethics committee along with Michel Platini, the head of European soccer's governing body and the favorite to succeed him in next year's FIFA election.

Rocha, a former FIFA development officer, has 30 days to appeal the extradition approval, the FOJ said, adding that it had given priority to the U.S. request over a similar one from Nicaragua.

The FOJ said that, according to the extradition request,

"Rocha massively influenced the competitive situation and distorted the market for media rights in connection with the World Cup qualifying matches."

It added: "Other sports marketing companies were placed at a disadvantage, and the football federation concerned was prevented from negotiating more favorable marketing agreements.   Continued...

The FIFA logo is seen outside their headquarters in Zurich October 8, 2015.  REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann