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Swiss arrests 7 FIFA officials as scandal widens (updated)

Jeffrey Webb is one of the seven arrested.

Syndicated News
Written by Syndicated News
GENEVA — May 27, 2015: Swiss authorities today said that a seventh top football official was arrested following a US request in a corruption probe that has sent FIFA into turmoil.

Football’s top body, based in Zurich, has been plagued by corruption allegations over decades but today’s shock arrests were the biggest blow to its reputation so far.

“In the course of the morning, a further wanted soccer official has been arrested further to a request from the United States,” the attorney-general’s office said, naming a seventh man.

It said the seven officials being held were Eugenio Figueredo, FIFA vice president and executive committee member from Uruguay; Costa Rican Eduardo Li, who was supposed to join the FIFA executive committee; and Brazilian soccer federation chief Jose Maria Marin, a member of FIFA’s organising committee for the Olympic football tournaments.

The others were Nicaraguan Julio Rocha, Britons Costas Takkas and Jeffrey Webb, the FIFA vice president and executive committee member, and Rafael Esquivel, president of the Venezuelan Football Federation.

The arrests follow a US probe into a bribery and kickback scheme spanning two decades. After the Zurich arrests, the US Justice Department announced conspiracy and corruption charges against nine FIFA officials and five business executives.

Swiss police seized documents and electronic data after raiding the FIFA headquarters today as part of a separate investigation already underway into money laundering and fraud involving the body’s awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively.

The attorney-general’s office said it had also ordered the blocking of accounts at several banks in Switzerland through which bribes are claimed to have flowed as well as the seizure of related bank documents.

FIFA in a separate statement said it was fully cooperating as injured party in the actions by Swiss authorities.

“FIFA welcomes actions that can help contribute to rooting out any wrongdoing in football,” a statement said.

The US Justice Department also unsealed an indictment today against nine officials and five executives, charging them with conspiracy and corruption over a 24-year span.The Department of Justice said it unsealed the indictment as officials raided the CONCACAF soccer organisation headquarters in Miami as part of the case.”It spans at least two generations of soccer officials who, as alleged, have abused their positions of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in the Justice Department statement about the charges.

“The bribery suspects – representatives of sports media and sports promotion firms – are alleged to have been involved in schemes to make payments to soccer functionaries – delegates of FIFA … and other functionaries of FIFA sub-organisations – totalling more than $100 million,” the Swiss justice ministry said in a statement.

“In return, it is believed that they received media, marketing, and sponsorship rights in connection with soccer tournaments in Latin America,” it added.

The charges are a major challenge for FIFA that comes as its head Sepp Blatter looks to secure a fifth term in a Friday vote.

Blatter, a powerful figure in sports, is not a target of the US case, The New York Times reported.

In May, Blatter denied he was a target of an FBI corruption investigation. The denial came after an ESPN television documentary said the Swiss official stayed away from the US over a FIFA investigation. — AFP 

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