Two FIFA top officials arrested in ongoing US probe


Zurich, Dec. 3 (GNA/dpa) – Two top football officials were arrested Thursday in a pre-dawn raid at a Zurich hotel where several others were taken into custody in late May, Swiss authorities said.

FIFA Vice presidents Alfredo Hawit of Honduras and Juan Angel Napout of Paraguay are named as the two football officials arrested by Swiss authorities, the Federal Office of Justice says.

The raids were carried out by Swiss authorities in the context of a US-led investigation on charges of racketeering, money laundering and fraud.

The Swiss Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) said that “according to the US arrest requests, they are suspected of accepting bribes of millions of dollars.

“The high-ranking FIFA officials are alleged to have taken the money in return for selling marketing rights in connection with football tournaments in Latin America, as well as World Cup qualifying matches.

“According to the arrest requests, some of the offences were agreed and prepared in the USA. Payments were also processed via US banks.”

Police officers entered the posh Baur au Lac hotel through a side entrance at 06:00 local time (0500 GMT) and the detained were whisked away in black limousines a few minutes later.

FIFA said in a statement it “is aware of the actions taken today by the US Department of Justice.

“FIFA will continue to cooperate fully with the US investigation as permitted by Swiss law, as well as with the investigation being led by the Swiss Office of the Attorney General. FIFA will have no further comment on today’s developments.”

The latest action comes during a two-day meeting of the FIFA executive committee. The meeting continued as planned, with a reform plan for the battered ruling body the main part of the agenda.

On May 27, two days before the FIFA Congress, Swiss police arrested seven officials as part of the US probe.

They included then vice-president Jeffrey Webb of the Cayman Islands and Brazil’s Jose Maria Marin, who have since been transferred to the US.

The other five – Eugenio Figueredo, Eduardo Li, Julio Rocha, Costas Takkas and Rafael Esquivel – oppose their extradition to the US, and their appeals against the FOJ’s rulings are pending before the Federal Criminal Court, the FOJ said Thursday.

The US probe centres on the TV and marketing rights sales in the Americas and is not directed directly against FIFA.

But Swiss authorities are probing the ruling body in a separate investigation, which centres on the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

The latter investigation is also directed against FIFA president Joseph Blatter on suspicion of mismanagement and having made a “disloyal payment” to UEFA chief Michel Platini in 2011 for FIFA work done between 1998 and 2002.

Blatter and Platini are both suspended over the issue and face sanctions from the ethics committee. As a result, neither Blatter nor Platini were able to take part in the executive committee meetings Wednesday and Thursday.

Blatter was re-elected as president for a fifth term but said on June 2 he would step down at an extraordinary congress on February.

GNA

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