GENEVA (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Justice has asked Switzerland to give priority to a U.S. request to extradite former FIFA official Julio Rocha in preference to a later request from his native Nicaragua, the Swiss Justice Ministry said.
Six of seven soccer officials detained in Zurich in late May remain in Swiss custody pending extradition requests from the United States to face charges in a corruption scandal that has rocked world’s soccer governing body.
The seventh, former FIFA Vice President Jeffrey Webb, agreed to extradition last month to New York.
Rocha, a former FIFA Development Officer and a former president of Nicaragua’s football association, agreed on Aug. 14 to an extradition request sent by Nicaragua. Days later, Managua’s attorney general Julia Guido said it had charged him with money laundering and embezzlement linked to soccer broadcasting rights.
“This week U.S. authorities have asked that the FOJ (Federal Office of Justice) gives priority to their request for Rocha’s extradition,” Swiss Justice Ministry spokesman Folco Galli said.
Switzerland has an extradition treaty with the United States and not with Nicaragua. But extradition to either jurisdiction is possible providing an alleged offence is punishable by at least one year in jail under both countries’ laws.
Swiss authorities expect to decide in September whether to extradite all six soccer officials to face corruption charges in the United States, Galli said earlier this week.
“There won’t be a separate decision. We will decide on the U.S. request concerning Rocha and also decide the question of which state has priority,” Galli said.
In all 14 men were indicted in the United States in late May on bribery, money laundering and wire fraud charges involving more than $150 million in payments.
Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by John Stonestreet