The United States has formally requested that Switzerland extradites seven FIFA officials held on corruption charges, Swiss authorities said in a statement on Thursday morning.
The seven men are among 14 top officials at world soccer's governing body who were arrested following dawn raids in Zurich in May. The Swiss Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) said it received the formal request from U.S authorities on Wednesday evening.
The FOJ statement said the officials and their lawyers now had 14 days to respond to the request, which could be extended by another 14 days "if sufficient grounds exist."
It also said that Zurich police would act on its behalf in giving the officials a hearing over the extradition requests. The statement said a decision would be made in a few weeks, but that the ruling may be challenged in both the federal criminal court and the federal supreme court.
The seven whose extradition has been requested include Jeffrey Webb, the former president of CONCACAF — the regional federation for North America, Central America, and the Caribbean — and Eugenio Figueredo, who sat on FIFA's executive board at the time of his arrest, Reuters reported.
The U.S. investigation runs parallel to a separate Swiss investigation. U.S. prosecutors say their probe exposes FIFA officials having millions of dollars in untaxed income, a web of money-laundering schemes, and tens of millions in offshore accounts.
A total of 14 people have been charged in cases involving bribes worth more than $150 million over a period of 24 years.
Read the FOJ's full statement:
The USA has asked Switzerland to extradite the seven FIFA officials arrested in Zurich. The formal extradition requests were submitted to the Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) yesterday evening.
The seven FIFA officials were arrested in Zurich on 27 May 2015 on the basis of a request from the USA, and detained pending extradition. On 1st July 2015, the US embassy in Bern submitted the formal extradition requests within the deadline laid down in the bilateral extradition treaty. The requests are based on the arrest warrants issued on 20 May 2015 by the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York, which is investigating the high-ranking FIFA officers on suspicion of taking bribes worth over 100 million dollars. In return, those suspected of paying the bribes – representatives of sports media and sports promotion firms – are believed to have received media, marketing and sponsorship rights for soccer tournaments in the United States and in Latin America. These crimes are thought to have been agreed and prepared in the USA, and payments were allegedly routed through US banks.
Acting for the FOJ, the Zurich Cantonal Police will give the seven FIFA officials a hearing on the extradition requests. The FOJ will then grant the persons concerned, or their lawyers, a period of 14 days in which to respond to the request. This time limit may be extended by 14 days if sufficient grounds exist. Drawing on the request, the hearings and the responses of the persons concerned, the FOJ will then rule on extradition within a few weeks. The FOJ's extradition ruling may be challenged before the Federal Criminal Court, as well as before the Federal Supreme Court, as the ultimate court of appeal.
Francis Whittaker is a homepage editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
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