Switzerland extradites first of seven FIFA suspects to US

Geneva, Switzerland (AFP) — One of the seven FIFA officials held in Switzerland as part of an investigation into massive corruption at football’s governing body has been extradited to the United States, the Swiss justice ministry said Thursday.

Swiss authorities last week confirmed that one of the FIFA suspects wanted by the US had accepted extradition and that the prisoner transfer was likely to be approved quickly.

Justice ministry spokesman Raphael Frei declined to name the official, saying only that he was extradited on Wednesday.

“He was handed over to a three-man US police escort in Zurich who accompanied him on the flight to New York,” the spokesman said in a statement.

The Wall Street Journal on July 10 reported that Jeffrey Webb of the Cayman Islands, a former FIFA vice-president, was the suspect who agreed to be sent to the US.

All seven FIFA officials wanted by American prosecutors were arrested in a dawn raid on a Zurich hotel on May 27, accused of involvement in more than $150 million of bribes given for marketing deals for football tournaments in North and South America.

According to Swiss authorities, the extradited man is accused by the US Justice Department of pocketing millions of dollars in connection with the sale of marketing rights to several sports marketing firms.

He allegedly took bribes while selling rights for World Cup matches, regional tournaments and championships in North and South America.

The six remaining FIFA officials wanted by the US authorities — all from South America or the CONCACAF zone of North and Central America and the Caribbean — have not yet agreed to be extradited.

Aside from Webb, the group includes Eugenio Figueredo from Uruguay — also an ex-FIFA vice president — 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.

– Meeting set for Monday –

The arrests ignited an unprecedented crisis at FIFA, with the body’s president Sepp Blatter ultimately agreeing to stand down.

Blatter, 79, has denied any wrongdoing, saying he bears no responsibility for any misdeeds committed by his deputies.

The extradition of the FIFA suspect comes ahead of a July 20 meeting in Zurich, where the body’s executive committee is expected to set out the timetable to determine the election for Blatter’s replacement.

Commentators, and even sources close to Blatter, have not ruled out the prospect of the embattled FIFA president reversing his decision to resign and standing for re-election.

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