Webb extradition: US request likely to take precedence


Both the U.S. and the Cayman Islands will seek the extradition of former FIFA Vice President Jeffrey Webb from Switzerland to face charges in their respective jurisdictions for separate criminal investigations. 

Whether the U.S. or Cayman will get the Cayman Islands native first largely depends on the outcome of extradition proceedings scheduled before the Swiss courts and the terms of extradition treaties between the countries. 

Raphael Frei with the Swiss Federal Office of Justice said this week that the Swiss treaty with the U.S. makes provision to deal with competing extradition requests. 

“If extradition is requested by more than one state, the requested state [Switzerland in this case] shall make its decision having regard to all the circumstances and especially the relative seriousness and place of commission of the offenses, the respective dates for the requests and the nationality of the person claimed,” Mr. Frei said. 

Webb faces more charges in the U.S. than in the Cayman Islands. U.S. authorities have already requested Webb’s extradition from Switzerland. 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. The U.S. charges relate to a worldwide scandal that enveloped FIFA in allegations that its high-ranking members, including Webb, accepted bribes in exchange for the award of lucrative commercial rights to football tournaments. 

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 Webb and 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 seven 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. 

CONCACAF contract  

FIFA’s regional body for the Caribbean, Central and North America, CONCACAF – of which Webb formerly served as president – announced this week that it had ended a “corporate partnership” with Traffic Sports USA. Traffic is one of the companies U.S. authorities allege paid bribes to Webb via intermediaries during 2012. 

The cancellation of the Traffic partnership with CONCACAF does not affect the current Gold Cup football tournament or any ongoing sponsorship agreements, according to the CONCACAF statement. 

Traffic is a Brazilian-owned sports marketing agency named in U.S. federal court records. Traffic’s Brazilian principal, Jose Hawilla, pleaded guilty to U.S. charges and has already agreed to pay a fine of $150 million. 

Among the allegations against the company cited in the U.S. indictment are that, during mid-2012, Webb and another unnamed person, “co-conspirator #4,” later identified as former CONCACAF general secretary Enrique Sanz, participated in discussions to negotiate the media and marketing rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup qualifier matches. These rights were being sought by Traffic USA, which wanted to buy the rights from the Caribbean Football Association, federal court records state. Sanz was employed by the Traffic Group at the time, but later in the year became the general secretary of CONCACAF. 

Near the end of these talks, according to the allegations, Sanz met with another indicted defendant, Costas Takkas, identified as a close associate of Webb’s. The meeting took place in Hungary. 

“Takkas told co-conspirator #4 that Webb wanted a US$3 million bribe in exchange for the [football union] contract to be awarded to Traffic USA,” the court records state. 

Blazer banned  

Former CONCACAF general secretary Charles Blazer was banned for life by FIFA’s ethics committee Thursday for widespread corruption, football’s governing body announced. 

Blazer, formerly the highest-ranking American in the FIFA organization, pleaded guilty to racketeering and tax evasion charges in connection with the ongoing U.S. corruption probe back in November 2013. However, that plea was kept under seal until May 27, 2015 when nine other FIFA officials, including Webb, were indicted in the investigation. 

FIFA’s ethics panel made its ruling using evidence from the American federal case. 

“[Blazer] was a key player in schemes involving the offer, acceptance, payment and receipt of undisclosed and illegal payments, bribes and kickbacks as well as other money-making schemes,” the ethics committee said in a statement.

For the Cayman Compass’s full FIFA coverage, visit the Compass Data Desk.

Jeffrey Webb