FIFA-linked Officials Arrested on Corruption Charges

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US will reportedly seek extradition of officials on allegations involving wire fraud, racketeering and money laundering.

Swiss authorities have arrested six leading FIFA-linked officials in Zurich on corruption charges brought by the United States.

The officials were arrested on Wednesday on allegations of paying and receiving millions of dollars in bribes, Swiss authorities said.

The officials are in Switzerland for the FIFA Congress as the body gets ready to elect its next president .

FIFA President Sepp Blatter was not among the men arrested, FIFA spokesperson Walter de Gregorio told the Associated Press.

The Swiss Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) issued a statement saying the arrests had been made at the request of US authorities.

“The US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York is investigating these individuals on suspicion of the acceptance of bribes and kick-backs between the early 1990s and the present day,” the FOJ statement read.

“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-organisations – totaling more than $100 million.

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

The suspects were not named.

The Press Association, citing sources close to FIFA, reported that the governing body’s vice president Jeffrey Webb, from the Cayman Islands, was among those arrested.

‘Way of doing business’

The New York Times  and the Wall Street Journal, citing law enforcement officials, had earlier reported that the allegations include wire fraud, racketeering and money laundering and that the US indictment involves more than 10 senior officials.

“We’re struck by just how long this went on for and how it touched nearly every part of what FIFA did,” a law enforcement official told the Times. “It just seemed to permeate every element of the federation and was just their way of doing business. It seems like this corruption was institutionalised.”

The US is expected to seek extradition of the officials who have been arrested.

Al Jazeera’s sports correspondent Andy Richardson, reporting from London, said it was too early to know what the ramifications of the operation in Zurich may be on football’s governing body. He added that FIFA and the officials were surprised by the timing of the raid.

More to follow

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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