FIFA Corruption Probe: Swiss Authorities Extradite FIFA Vice President Jeffrey Webb To US
Former FIFA Vice President Jeffrey Webb has been extradited to the United States following his arrest in Switzerland on racketeering and bribery charges filed by American prosecutors.
The Swiss Federal Office of Justice said Thursday the man was extradited a day earlier after 50 days of detention.
“He was handed over to a three-man U.S. police escort in Zurich who accompanied him on the flight to New York,” the ministry said in a statement.
Two people familiar with the case identified the defendant as Webb and confirmed he has been brought to the United States. The people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case, declined to disclose his exact location.
Webb, who is from the Cayman Islands, was president of the CONCACAF, soccer’s governing body for North and Central America and the Caribbean, and a FIFA vice president at the time of his arrest.
A total of 14 men — nine soccer officials and five marketing executives — were indicted by the U.S. Justice Department in May, including former FIFA vice president Jack Warner, who is resisting extradition from Trinidad and Tobago. Webb promised reform when he was elected in 2012 to succeed Warner as president of CONCACAF.
A further four, including former FIFA executive committee member Chuck Blazer of the United States and two sons of Warner, had their guilty pleas unsealed in May.
They are alleged to have taken part in a racketeering conspiracy paying bribes of more than $150 million over a 24-year period. The payments were tied to the award of broadcast and hosting rights for the World Cup, continental championships in North and South America, and regional club tournaments.
Another of the arrested was Aaron Davison, president of the marketing company Traffic Sports USA, who is subject to home detention at his residence in Florida. A day ahead of a status conference in his case in federal court in Brooklyn, prosecutors sent a letter to U.S. District Judge Raymond J. Dearie informing him that Davidson has been involved in plea negotiations.
The government said it anticipates “audio recordings in multiple languages” and “records produced to the United States by foreign countries pursuant to mutual legal assistance requests” will be part of discovery in Davidson’s case. Prosecutors also said they are coordinating with FIFA’s counsel to notify all 209 national federations of the proceedings.
All seven men were arrested on May 27 in dawn raids on a luxury hotel in Zurich by Swiss federal police at the request of American prosecutors.
They include FIFA vice president Eugenio Figueredo of Uruguay, who like Webb was suspended from soccer activity by FIFA’s ethics committee.
The others are Jose Maria Marin, who led Brazil’s 2014 World Cup local organizing committee; Eduardo Li, an elected member of FIFA’s executive committee and president of Costa Rica’s soccer federation; FIFA staffer Julio Rocha, a development officer from Nicaragua; Venezuela federation president Rafael Esquivel; and Costas Takkas, a Briton who works for Webb.
Extradition hearings are being held by Zurich cantonal police in a process expected to finish by early September, Swiss justice office spokesman Raphael Frei told the Associated Press on Thursday. Appeals to Switzerland’s federal criminal court and supreme court can extend the cases by several months.
Webb and Figueredo were named in the indictment among several men who have already shared in bribe payments of at least $40 million linked to broadcast rights for four editions of the Copa America tournament.
Blazer admitted sharing in a $10 million bribe scheme with Warner and a third FIFA voter to support South Africa’s successful bid for the 2010 World Cup. South African officials asked FIFA to transfer the money through the governing body’s accounts.
U.S. authorities have said more indictments could follow, and FIFA President Sepp Blatter is a target of the widening case.
Under pressure from the investigation and a separate Swiss federal probe of money laundering linked to FIFA’s award of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, Blatter announced on June 2 that he intends to leave office.
Blatter, who denies wrongdoing, has not attended FIFA business in nations that have extradition treaties with the U.S.
On Monday, he will chair an executive committee meeting in Zurich that is likely to decide on an election date for FIFA’s member federations to replace him as president.
Blatter is expected to travel to Russia next week to oversee the 2018 World Cup qualifying draw on July 25 in St. Petersburg.