One of seven FIFA officials detained in Switzerland in May as a massive corruption scandal erupted has agreed to be extradited to the United States, the Swiss justice ministry said Friday.
The official is one of seven — all from South America or the CONCACAF zone of North and Central America and the Caribbean — arrested in a dawn raid on a Zurich hotel on May 27, accused by US authorities of involvement in more than $150 million of bribes given for marketing deals for football tournaments in North and South America.
The man had first objected to a US extradition request but had agreed Thursday afternoon, becoming the first of the seven to do so, a justice ministry spokesman told AFP.
His agreement meant Swiss authorities were “able to approve his extradition immediately in a simplified procedure,” the ministry said in a statement.
He will however remain in Switzerland until US police come to escort him to the United States — something they according to Swiss law must do within 10 days, it said.
According to the ministry, the official awaiting extradition stands accused by the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York of “accepting bribes totalling millions of dollars in connection with the sale of marketing rights to varioussports marketing firms and keeping the money for himself.”
“The marketing rights in question pertain to the broadcast of qualifying matches for the soccer World Cup, regional soccer tournaments and continental soccer championships in North and South America,” the ministry said in a statement.
“Such conduct was financially detrimental to two continental federations as well as various national associations,” it added.
The seven held include Jeffrey Webb of the Cayman Islands and Eugenio Figueredo from Uruguay — both former FIFA vice presidents — and Costa Rican Eduardo Li, who was supposed to join the FIFA Executive Committee in May.
There was also Brazilian football federation chief Jose Maria Marin, Nicaraguan Julio Rocha and Costas Takkas, a Briton who worked for the Cayman islands federation and Rafael Esquivel, president of the Venezuelan Football Federation.
Their May 27 arrests came a day before FIFA’s annual conference was about to begin, sparking a tsunami of a scandal.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter was reelected to a new term at the congress but, amid a storm of controversy over parallel US and Swiss investigations, he quickly announced that he would stand down.
Blatter, 79, has not been implicated in either enquiry and again strongly denied involvement in corruption in his column Friday in the in-house publication FIFA Weekly.
“I bear no responsibility for members of a government (the FIFA Executive Committee) I have not myself elected. The FIFA President must work with the people allotted him by the confederations. I therefore also bear no responsibility whatsoever for the behaviour of these ExCo members on their home turf,” he wrote.
An Executive Committee meeting on July 20 will lay down the timetable to determine who will lead the body forward, but sources close to Blatter say he has not ruled out the prospect of going back on his decision to step down. – Agence France-Presse