Switzerland agrees to extradite official in FIFA case

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BERN, Switzerland (AP) — The Swiss justice ministry on Wednesday granted a U.S. request to extradite Venezuelan football official Rafael Esquivel in a FIFA bribery investigation.

Esquivel is “accused of receiving bribes worth millions of dollars in connection with the sale of marketing rights to the Copa America tournaments in 2007, 2015, 2016, 2019 and 2023,” the Swiss ministry said in a statement.

Esquivel was indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice in May and faces 20 years in prison on racketeering charges.

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He can appeal the extradition decision within 30 days at Switzerland’s federal criminal court.

The former Venezuela football federation president was among seven men arrested May 27 in early-morning hotel raids in Zurich, two days before the FIFA presidential election.

He is the third person whose extradition from Switzerland to the U.S. has been approved.

Former FIFA vice president Jeffrey Webb agreed to be extradited in July. The Cayman islands banker was released on a $10 million bail bond posted in Brooklyn federal court.

Eugenio Figueredo, another former FIFA vice president from Uruguay, had his request approved by Swiss authorities last week. It is unclear if the 83-year-old official has appealed.

American authorities have also accused Figueredo of fraudulently obtaining American citizenship a decade ago when he cited a mental disability to avoid English language and civics tests.

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Four more football officials are also detained in Switzerland awaiting decisions by the Swiss justice ministry after Zurich police held extradition hearings in recent weeks.

They are: Jose Maria Marin of Brazil, who headed the 2014 World Cup organizing committee; Eduardo Li of Costa Rica; Julio Rocha, a FIFA development staffer from Nicaragua; and Costas Takkas, a British aide to Webb.

All are among 14 football and marketing officials indicted in an alleged bribery plot worth “well over $150 million” linked to hosting and broadcasting rights for the World Cup and continental tournaments in North and South America. Four more men had guilty pleas unsealed.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in Zurich last week that she expects further charges to be made in an expanding case, which has targeted FIFA President Sepp Blatter.