Following dramatic morning raids in Zurich, Switzerland on Wednesday it has been announced that nine FIFA officials have been arrested in connection with an FBI investigation.
The fallout continues as FIFA’s Director of Communications & Public Affairs Walter de Gregorio claimed that the arrests were “a good day for FIFA” but the FBI has released a damning statement claiming that “the indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States.”
Attorney General Loretta Lynch and the FBI will be holding a press conference in Brooklyn, New York at 10:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday as it is clear that serious allegations of corruption and bribery against several high-ranking officials is set to shake the foundations of world soccer’s governing body.
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Swiss officials completed the arrests on Wednesday on behalf of the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice and the Swiss Federal Office of Justice has since announced it is launching its own separate criminal investigation into the “allocation of the 2018 and 2022 Football World Cups.”
The FBI has since announced that the highest profile name to be arrested is FIFA vice-president and the President of CONCACAF Jeffrey Webb, as the shockwaves continue to reverberate as the U.S. Department of Justice has extradition orders for up to 14 people in connection with alleged bribery and corruption regarding world soccer’s governing body.
Although current FIFA President Sepp Blatter is not among those arrested but these incredible arrests have come just 48 hours before the presidential vote where he is widely expected to secure a fifth-straight term in charge.
Swiss authorities have said that the men in question are “on suspicion of the acceptance of bribes and kick-backs between the early 1990s and the present day” and those bribes are thought to be in excess of $150 million.
Along with Webb, the other high-ranking FIFA officials arrested in Zurich are Eduardo Li of Costa Rica, the current FIFA development officer Julio Rocha, Eugenio Figueredo of Uruguay and the deputy chief of the Brazilian FA Jose Maria Marin. Former CONCACAF president Jack Warner, former CONMEBOL president Nicholas Leoz, former general secretary of the Cayman Islands Costas Takkas and president of the Venezuelan Football Association Rafael Esquivel have also been indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice. While five more corporate executives have also been indicted by the FBI.
The FBI also announced that a search warrant is also being executed for the CONCACAF headquarters in Miami, Florida.
A dramatic morning raid took place at the five-star Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich, and other hotels since, as Swiss authorities have since released the following statement regarding the FBI investigation.
By order of the Federal Office of Justice (FOJ), six soccer officials were arrested in Zurich today (Wednesday) and detained pending extradition. The US authorities suspect them of having received bribes totaling in the USD millions.
The six soccer functionaries were arrested today in Zurich by the Zurich Cantonal Police. The FOJ’s arrest warrants were issued further to a request by the US authorities. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York is investigating these individuals on suspicion of the acceptance of bribes and kick-backs between the early 1990s and the present day. The bribery suspects — representatives of sports media and sports promotion firms — are alleged to have been involved in schemes to make payments to the soccer functionaries — delegates of FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) and other functionaries of FIFA sub-organizations — totaling more than $100 million. In return, it is believed that they received media, marketing, and sponsorship rights in connection with soccer tournaments in Latin America. According to the U.S. request, these crimes were agreed and prepared in the U.S., and payments were carried out via U.S. banks.
The Zurich Cantonal Police will question the detainees today on behalf of the FOJ regarding the U.S. request for their arrest. A simplified procedure will apply for wanted persons who agree to their immediate extradition. The FOJ can immediately approve their extradition to the U.S. and order its execution. However, if a wanted person opposes their extradition, the FOJ will invite the U.S. to submit a formal extradition request within the deadline of 40 days specified in the bilateral extradition treaty.
As this dramatic story unfolds in Switzerland, ProSoccerTalk will keep you updated throughout the day.