More arrests in FIFA corruption investigation
Two FIFA officials arrested early on Thursday morning by the Swiss authorities are opposing their extradition to the United States. The two high-ranking men were taken into custody as part of an investigation into corruption at FIFA led by the US.
Alfredo Hawit, president of the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) and vice-president of FIFA; and Juan Angel Napout, president of the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) and a FIFA official, both had extradition hearings on Thursday morning. The US will now have to submit formal requests within 40 days to have the two men extradited.
Hawit, a Honduran citizen, and Napout, from Paraguay, were in Zurich for the second day of an executive committee meeting to discuss reforms on how FIFA is governed. Police arrived before dawn at the five-star Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich where a number of officials from football's world governing body were staying.
In a statement, FIFA said it is cooperating with the US and Switzerland. "FIFA became aware of the actions taken today by the US 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."
The Swiss Office of Justice said the arrest requests were submitted by the US Department of Justice on November 29. Those taken into custody on Thursday are suspected of taking bribes, allegedly for selling off “marketing rights in connection with football tournaments in Latin America, as well as World Cup qualifying matches”.
Early morning wake-up call
The raid began at 6am according to the New York Times, whose reporter was at the hotel, and was over by 6.40am.
It's the second such wave of arrests this year. In May seven high-ranking FIFA officials were taken away from the same hotel by police. Jeffrey Webb and José Maria Marin both agreed to simplified extradition proceedings and were transferred to the US in July and earlier in November.
The remaining five officials arrested in May, Eugenio Figueredo, Eduardo Li, Julio Rocha, Costas Takkas and Rafael Esquivel, have opposed their extraditions and have appeals pending with the Federal Criminal Court.
The US has been cracking down on the sports organisation amid allegations of serious and widespread corruption.
FIFA's outgoing, and currently suspended president, Sepp Blatter and Jérôme Valcke, his suspended deputy, were not among those arrested on Thursday.
The Swiss Attorney General's office began a separate investigation into Blatter at the end of September. He is suspected of criminal mismanagement and misappropriation.
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