Cayman Islands native and former FIFA Vice President Jeffrey Webb agreed Thursday to be extradited to the United States, according to reports from a number of international news agencies.
Webb, 50, was one of seven current or former FIFA officials arrested on May 27 in Zurich, Switzerland in connection with a far-reaching U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service probe. The investigation alleged that top-ranking members of world football’s governing body accepted bribes in exchange for granting the commercialization rights for certain football tournaments to selected sports marketing companies.
Switzerland’s Federal Office of Justice did not identify the official involved in the extradition, saying in a Friday statement that he “wished not to be named at the moment.”
Bloomberg News Service was first to report that a “person familiar with the matter” identified the FIFA official being sent to the U.S. as Webb.
The official, who initially had contested his extradition, agreed to be extradited on Thursday afternoon, Swiss authorities said. The office said it approved his extradition immediately but that, in keeping with its usual practice, it would not give details of when he would be handed over. Under Swiss law, he must be collected by a U.S. police escort and taken to the United States within 10 days.
The seven men arrested in raids on a luxury hotel May 27 in Zurich, where FIFA has its headquarters, included current and former members of FIFA’s executive committee. The United States submitted a formal request for their extradition on July 1.
Webb and Uruguayan Eugenio Figueredo were among those arrested. The other five were Eduardo Li, Jose Maria Marin, Julio Rocha, Costas Takkas, and Rafael Esquivel.
The widening American investigation alleges bribery and racketeering worth more than $150 million involving high-ranking FIFA officials over a 24-year span.
The official who has agreed to be extradited is accused of accepting bribes totaling millions of dollars in connection with the sale of marketing rights to various sports marketing firms and keeping the money for himself, the Swiss justice office said. Those rights were related to the broadcast of World Cup qualifiers, regional tournaments and continental championships in North and South America.
Cayman probe takes back seat
Both the U.S. and the Cayman Islands said they would seek the extradition of former FIFA Vice President Jeffrey Webb from Switzerland to face charges in their respective jurisdictions for separate criminal investigations.
Webb faces more charges in the U.S. than in the Cayman Islands. Cayman’s Anti-Corruption Commission has indicated it intends to begin extradition proceedings for Webb, but as of Thursday no extradition request had been filed.
Webb is facing a 15-count federal indictment in the U.S. on racketeering, bribery and money laundering charges, which carry a prison sentence of 20-plus years upon conviction.
In Cayman, Webb has been charged with four counts on three separate charges related to what prosecutors allege was the corrupt awarding of a public hospital contract.
Webb, who is from the Cayman Islands, is married to an American citizen and owns several properties in the U.S. state of Georgia. The United States filed its extradition request prior to criminal charges being laid against Webb in the Cayman Islands.
If the six other FIFA officials being held in Switzerland in connection with the U.S. criminal probe decide to fight extradition, the process could take months or even a year or more before they are sent back to face charges.
According to a press release issued by the Swiss Federal Office of Justice, the Zurich Cantonal (County) Police must give the remaining defendants a hearing on the extradition requests. Following that hearing, the defendants have 14 days to respond to the request, essentially stating whether they will fight it or assent to it. The 14-day limit can be extended to 28-days “if sufficient grounds exist.”
Following the hearings and responses, the Federal Office of Justice will then rule on whether the defendants must be extradited. However, that ruling can be contested by the defendants in the Swiss Federal Criminal Court and beyond that to the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland, the country’s highest court.