Zurich, Switzerland (CNS) — The US authorities have made an official request to Switzerland to extradite the Cayman Islands’ Jeffrey Webb and the six other FIFA officials arrested in Zürich in May on corruption related charges. The Swiss authorities confirmed in a release that the formal requests were submitted to its federal justice office Wednesday evening, ahead of the Friday deadline.
The seven men were arrested at the request of the US authorities on 27 May at a luxury hotel in Zürich, on the eve of the annual FIFA congress, in connection with a $150 million corruption scandal. The extradition requests are based on the warrants issued to the Swiss justice department a week before the arrests by the United States Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York, which is heading up the bribery probe.
“Those suspected of paying the bribes – representatives of sports media and sports promotion firms – are believed to have received media, marketing and sponsorship rights for soccer tournaments in the United States and in Latin America. These crimes are thought to have been agreed and prepared in the USA, and payments were allegedly routed through US banks,” the Swiss authorities stated.
The Swiss FOJ explained that the seven FIFA officials will receive hearings on the extradition requests and they will have 14 days to respond but the process could go all the way to Switzerland’s top court.
“This time limit may be extended by 14 days if sufficient grounds exist. Drawing on the request, the hearings and the responses of the persons concerned, the FOJ will then rule on extradition within a few weeks. The FOJ’s extradition ruling may be challenged before the Federal Criminal Court, as well as before the Federal Supreme Court, as the ultimate court of appeal,” the federal office said.
All seven men are understood to be fighting extradition. As a result, Webb and his FIFA colleagues, Costas Takkas, Rafael Esquivel, Nicolas Leoz, Eduardo Li, Eugenio Figueredo and Jose Maria Marin, could remain in jail in Zürich for months. The men are in separate detention centres around the city and unconfirmed reports in the international media suggest they are permitted only one visit a week and must remain behind a glass partition. They are also said to be locked inside their cells for 23 hours a day. With all of the football officials considered a flight risk, the Swiss authorities have already refused bail to one of the elderly officials, who at 83 years old is in poor health.
The US Department of Justice has indicted 18 people as part of its wide-ranging investigation, including Jack Warner, Webb’s predecessor at CONCACAF, who remains in his native Trinidad, where an extradition request is pending.
Already four people have pleaded guilty to corruption charges, including former FIFA executive member Chuck Blazer.
Meanwhile, the Swiss authorities are leading a separate investigation into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.