Six high-ranking soccer officials, including two vice-presidents of Fifa, were arrested by Swiss cops today.
They’re being kept until they can be extradited to America.
The arrests were made by plain-clothes cops shortly after dawn at a fancy Zurich hotel where Fifa officials are staying ahead of this week’s Fifa presidential election.
The Swiss Federal Office of Justice did not identify which officials were arrested, but confirmed that Fifa president Sepp Blatter was not among them.
The New York Times and the BBC both reported that Jeffrey Webb and Eugenio Figueredo, both Fifa vice-presidents, were among the six detained.
The Swiss said in a statement that the officials were suspected by America investigators of having received or paid bribes totaling millions of dollars.
“The US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York is investigating these individuals on suspicion of the acceptance of bribes and kickbacks between the early 1990s and the present day,” the statement said.
“The bribery suspects – representatives of sports media and sports promotion firms – are alleged to have been involved in schemes to make payments to the soccer functionaries – delegates of FIFA and other functionaries of Fifa sub-organizations – totaling more than $100 million.”
More than 10 officials were expected to be indicted, but not all were in Zurich. The New York Times said Jack Warner, Eduardo Li, Julio Rocha, Costas Takkas, Rafael Esquivel, José Maria Marin and Nicolas Leoz were also indicted.
Fifa did not make any immediate comment following the arrests but are due to hold a news conference later today.
Most of the officials are in Switzerland for the Fifa Congress, where Blatter faces a challenge from Jordan’s Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein in a presidential election on Friday, when the Swiss administrator will attempt to secure a fifth term at the helm.
Prince Ali, who has promised to clean up Fifa if elected to the top job, released a brief statement.
“Today is a sad day for football,” he said.
“Clearly this is a developing story, the details of which are still emerging. It would not be appropriate to comment further at this time.”
The New York Times said more than a dozen Swiss law enforcement officials arrived at Zurich’s Baur au Lac hotel early today, took keys from the registration desk and headed up to the rooms.
One Fifa official was led by the authorities from his room to a side-door exit of the hotel, the Times said, adding that officials from the body’s powerful executive committee were being targeted.
“We’re struck by just how long this went on for and how it touched nearly every part of what Fifa did,” the paper quoted an unnamed law enforcement official as saying.
“It just seemed to permeate every element of the federation and was just their way of doing business. It seems like this corruption was institutionalized.”
The Times said much of the enquiry was focused on the CONCACAF region, which governs soccer in the North America, Central America and the Caribbean.
The confederation’s former boss, Warner was regularly dogged by accusations of corruption before he resigned in 2011, putting an end to investigations of the Trinidadian.
The reports offer a fresh blow to the credibility of Fifa, which has suffered repeated accusations of wrongdoing over the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which were awarded to Qatar and Russia respectively.
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