Three months after 14 arrests in an international racketeering and bribery investigation shook world football, just three criminal defendants – including Cayman’s Jeffrey Webb – are currently before the U.S. court system.
The other 11 suspects still face extradition, either from Switzerland or their home countries, in connection with the investigation by a number of U.S. federal agencies. They allege that FIFA officials accepted bribes in exchange for the award of commercialization rights for certain football tournaments to certain sports marketing companies in the U.S. and in South America.
Webb, 50, is due to appear in U.S. district court again in October. He faces 15 counts, including racketeering, bribery and money laundering. He has pleaded not guilty after deciding not to fight extradition from Switzerland following his May 27 arrest there and has been released on US$10 million bond.
Two other defendants, high-ranking officials of the sports marketing companies U.S. investigators allege paid the bribes, have also appeared in court in Brooklyn, New York, to answer charges. Aaron Davidson, president of Traffic USA, and Alejandro Burzaco, the principal of Argentina-based Torneos y Competencias S.A., have been released on multimillion-dollar bond arrangements that involve electronic monitoring and home confinement.
Six defendants charged in the FIFA bribery scandal remained in separate confinement in Canton of Zurich, Switzerland as of press time Tuesday. They were all arrested on May 27, just prior to FIFA’s annual meeting.
The Swiss justice ministry is expected to rule in September on the various extradition requests filed for those defendants, including former Cayman Islands resident and U.K. national Costas Takkas. He is believed to have acted as Webb’s attaché and intermediary in some of the alleged bribe payments.
At least one other defendant, Julio Rocha of Nicaragua, has asked to be returned to his home country where he is also facing separate criminal charges of using his public office to solicit bribes. Swiss authorities have said they will weigh the U.S. extradition request against the Nicaraguan case before determining Rocha’s destination.
The remaining four defendants being held in Switzerland are Eduardo Li of Costa Rica, Eugenio Figueredo of Uruguay, Rafael Esquivel of Venezuela and Jose Maria Marin of Brazil.
In addition, Trinidad and Tobago’s Jack Warner, who is also facing charges in the U.S. probe, has received an extradition request which he has said he intends to fight. Nicholas Leoz of Paraguay is also facing extradition from his home country in connection with the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Evan Norris said earlier this month that there are ongoing extradition requests being handled via the lawyers for the other FIFA defendants. He did not go into specifics regarding what stages those requests had reached during a court appearance in the case on Aug. 14.
Prosecutors allege the defendants plotted to arrange bribes of more than US$150 million – tied to the awarding of broadcasting and hosting rights for the World Cup and other tournaments – over a 24-year period.