GENEVA – (AA) The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland on Wednesday opened criminal proceedings against persons unknown over money laundering in connection with the allocation of the 2018 and 2022 football World Cups.
“In the course of proceedings, electronic data and documents were seized today at FIFA’s head office in Zurich,” the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) said in a statement Wednesday. “The files seized today and the collected bank documents will serve criminal proceedings both in Switzerland and abroad.”
Earlier Wednesday, during an operation by the Swiss Federal Office of Justice (FOJ), six officials from world football governing body FIFA, were arrested by police in Switzerland on allegeations of having received bribes totaling more than $100 million.
According to Swiss media, two FIFA vice presidents Jeffrey Webb and Eugenio Figueredo were among the officials arrested today.
The arrest warrants were issued following a request by the U.S. authorities, the FOJ confirmed, adding that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the eastern district of New York had been investigating “bribes and kickbacks” from the early 1990s and onward.
“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-organizations – totaling more than $100 million,” the FOJ said.
“In return, it is believed that they received media, marketing, and sponsorship rights in connection with soccer tournaments in Latin America.”
Two FIFA VPs among those held in bribery probe
Two FIFA vice presidents were among the seven officials held in a bribery probe in Switzerland, the Swiss Federal Office of Justice said on Wednesday.
The agency revealed the names af seven officials from the governing body for world football FIFA who have been arrested by police in Switzerland, after being charged in the U.S. Those arrested will face extradition to be tried in New York City.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement on Wednesday that FIFA officials had “engaged in decades of criminal actions in which they pocketed millions of dollars in bribes over more than two decades.”
The FIFA officials are charged with money laundering, racketeering and wire fraud. There are indictments against 14 people, including nine FIFA officials.
The U.S. authorities suspect them of having received bribes totaling more than $100 million.
FIFA vice presidents Jeffrey Webb and Eugenio Figueredo were among the officials being held.
FIFA’s 65th congress is due to gather on Thursday in Zurich to elect a new president. Current FIFA President Sepp Blatter and Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan are in competition for the top post.
The following individuals are in detention pending extradition to the U.S.:
- Eugenio Figueredo, FIFA vice president and executive committee member, CONMEBOL president and Urugauayan soccer federation president. Citizen of Uruguay.
- Eduardo Li, FIFA executive committee member-elect, CONCACAF executive committee member and Costa Rican soccer federation (FEDEFUT) president. Citizen of Costa Rica.
- Jose Maria Marin, FIFA organizing committee for the Olympic football tounaments member and Brazilien soccer federation (CBF) president. Citizen of Brail.
- Julio Rocha, FIFA development officer, Central American Football Union (UNCAF) president and Nicaraguan soccer federation (FENIFUT) president. Citizen of Nicaragua.
- Costas Takkas, CONCACAF attaché to the president and CIFA general secretary. Citizen of Great Britain.
- Jeffrey Webb, FIFA vice president and executive committee member, CONCACAF president, CFU executive committee member and Cayman Islands Football Association (CIFA) president. Citizen of Great Britain.
- Rafael Esquivel, President of the Venezuelan Football Federation and Member of the Executive Committee of the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL), Venezuelan citizen
FIFA’s presidential election on Friday
Despite the investigation, Gregorio said the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar would still go ahead and there will not be another vote on the attributaion of the two tournaments.
Gregorio also said FIFA’s 65th congress will still gather on Thursday in Zurich to elect a new president on Friday despite the investigations and arrests. Current FIFA President Sepp Blatter and Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan are fighting for the top post.
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