Six football officials were yesterday arrested in Zurich and detained pending extradition to the United States over suspected corruption at soccer’s governing body Fifa, the Swiss Federal Office of Justice (FCOJ) said in a statement.
The high-ranking Fifa officials; Mr. Li, Jeffrey Webb, Eugenio Figueredo, Jack Warner, Julio Rocha, Costas Takkas, Rafael Esquivel, José Maria Marin and Nicolás Leoz, were in Switzerland for the Fifa Congress which starts tomorrow.
Incumbent Sepp Blatter faces a challenge from Jordan’s Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein in a presidential election tomorrow.
The officials are suspected of receiving bribes and the arrest warrants were issued further to a request by the FBI.
“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,” a statement from FCOJ read in part.
“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 officials — delegates of Fifa and other functionaries of Fifa sub-organisations — totalling more than $100 million.”
In return, it is believed that the suspects received media, marketing, and sponsorship rights in connection with soccer tournaments in Latin America.
According to the US request, these crimes were agreed and prepared in the US, and payments were carried out via US banks.”
Meanwhile, Football Association of Malawi (Fam) president, Walter Nyamilandu and general secretary Suzgo Nyirenda, arrived in Zurich yesterday for the Congress.
“It’s an important meeting where associations will discuss football developments in their countries,” Nyirenda said.
“Fifa projects, including grassroots football, women’s football and all matters related to football will be tackled.”
The world’s football officials are expected to vote for a new president in the elections.
Fam executive committee already hinted that it would throw its weight behind Blatter.
The association said its decision to support Blatter is based on the Fifa president’s achievements more especially in Africa.
Malawi has benefitted from a couple of programmes like Fifa Goal Project which are Blatter’s brainchild.—(Additional reporting from Reuters)
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