KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Two more senior figures within world football federation FIFA were among a new wave of arrests early today at the Baur au Lac hotel where delegates to this week’s crucial meeting of the executive committee have been staying.
The two men arrested were Juan Angel Napout, the Paraguayan president of CONMEBOL, the South American confederation, and Alfredo Hawit, Honduran head of CONCACF, the central and north American governing body.
Baur au Lac Hotel . . . another dawn raid
Napout stepped up into the presidency in August last year. Both his predecessors are the subject of extradition applications by the United States Department of Justice: Uruguayan Eugenio Figueredo is one of the ‘Zurich Seven’ while Paragauayan Nicolas Leoz is contesting an application to his national judicial authorities.
Hawit’s two predecessors as CONCACAF leaders are also in the line of fire. Jeffrey Webb from the Cayman Islands is under house arrest already in the US while Jack Warner is fighting a bid to extradite him from his native Trinidad.
Swiss authorities said that today’s arrests concerned the acceptance of millions of dollars in bribes.
The 6am raid was a repeat of the dramatic swoop by the Swiss authorities on May 27 acting on extradition request from the United States Department of Justice in its ongoing FIFAGate corruption investigation.
This concerns allegations that senior international football executives and marketing executives were involved in $150m bribery, fraud and money-laundering conspiracies arising out of misconduct concerning commercial rights to major tournaments in South and central and North America.
Five former football high-flyers who were arrested in May on the eve of FIFA’s annual congress are currently contesting extradition approval rulings. Two men, Jeffrey Webb (ex-FIFA vice-president and former president of CONCACAF) and Jose Maria Marin (ex-head of the Brazilian football confederation) have been extradited to the US already.
Loretta Lynch, the US Attorney-General, had stated earlier this autumn that more arrests in the FIFAGate investigation should be expected. A parallel inquiry is being run by the Swiss authorities into circumstances surrounding the controversial award of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar.
Last month the presidents of the Chilean and Colombian federations hoth took sudden leave of absence to fly to the United States where it was believed they had agreed to co-operate with investigators.
FIFA, reacting to the latest arrests, said: “FIFA is aware of the actions taken today by the U S Department of Justice.
“FIFA will continue to cooperate fully with the US investigation as permitted by Swiss law, as well as with the investigation being led by the Swiss Office of the Attorney General. FIFA will have no further comment on today’s developments.”
Swiss Federal Department of Justice statement:
Two further FIFA officials in custdy pending extradition
BERN: On the instructions of the Federal Office of Justice FOJ, a further two FIFA officials were arrested in Zurich today, Thursday. They are being held in custody pending their extradition. According to the US arrest requests, they are suspected of accepting bribes of millions of dollars.
The two FIFA officials were arrested by the Zurich cantonal police today in Zurich.The detention orders issued by the FOJ are based on arrest requests submitted by the United States Department of Justice on 29 November 2015. In the light of further investigations conducted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, these individuals are now also suspected of having received bribes.The high-ranking FIFA officials are alleged to have taken the money in return for selling marketing rights in connection with football tournaments in Latin America, as well as World Cup qualifying matches.According to the arrest requests, some of the offences were agreed and prepared in the USA. Payments were also processed via US banks.
Hearings for those arrested
On behalf of the FOJ, the Zurich cantonal police will hold hearings on the US arrest requests before the end of today. Simplified proceedings apply if the wanted person declares at the hearing that they agree to be extradited immediately.In such cases, the FoJ may approve extradition to the USA immediately, and order its completion. However, should any person oppose their extradition, the FOJ will ask the USA to submit a formal extradition request within the 40-day deadline laid down in the bilateral extradition treaty.
Status of extradition and legal assistance proceedings
Two of the seven former FIFA officials arrested in Zurich on 27 May 2015 agreed to simplified extradition proceedings. Jeffrey Webb and José Maria Marin were then transferred to the US authorities on 15 July and 3 November respectively. However, the other five – Eugenio Figueredo, Eduardo Li, Julio Rocha, Costas Takkas and Rafael Esquivel – oppose their extradition to the USA, and their appeals against the FOJ’s rulings are pending before the Federal Criminal Court.Further to four US requests for mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, starting on 27 May 2015 the FOJ froze a series of accounts at Swiss banks through which it is alleged the bribes were routed. It has also obtained the corresponding banking documents.To date, the FOJ has ordered the handover of such documents in five final partial rulings. The account-holders have 30 days in which to appeal against these rulings before the Federal Criminal Court.Should the account-holder decide not to lodge an appeal, or if any such appeal is rejected by the Federal Criminal Court or the Federal Supreme Court, the final ruling becomes legally enforceable. Only then is the FOJ able to hand the evidence gathered in Switzerland over to the US authorities.###########