FIFA scandal: Swiss hand evidence to US authorities

Seven months after high-ranking FIFA officials were arrested in a dawn raid at a Zurich hotel and charged with racketeering and corruption in a U.S. court, the Swiss Federal Office of Justice has given U.S. authorities a first set of bank documents that will be used as evidence in criminal proceedings against the football executives. 

The documents contain information about bank accounts that were allegedly used to pay bribes in connection with the granting of marketing rights for football tournaments in Latin America and the United States. 

In total, 39 FIFA officials and sports marketing executives have been indicted in the U.S. investigation. They are accused of having negotiated more than $200 million in bribes over television and marketing contracts for football events such as FIFA World Cup qualifiers, the Gold Cup, the Copa America and the Copa Libertadores. 

Former CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb has pleaded guilty to involvement in racketeering and bribery schemes and agreed to forfeit more than US$6.7 million. He could also face up to 20 years’ imprisonment. 

U.S. authorities have requested Swiss legal assistance on three occasions, in March, April and May. In response, the Swiss Federal Office of Justice ordered the collection of documents relating to 50 bank accounts with 10 banks. 

Before granting legal assistance, Swiss authorities have to examine whether a link exists between the documents sought and the offenses detailed in the official request, and whether the documents are needed to pursue criminal proceedings. 

So far, Switzerland has issued eight partial rulings that were not challenged in court, and “others will follow,” Swiss federal justice officials announced in a press statement. In one case the account holder agreed that relevant documents could be handed over. 

The U.S. authorities have further requested records relating to Swiss criminal proceedings against FIFA officials that were suspended in 2010 and records relating to criminal proceedings against the executives of sports marketing company ISL. The Swiss actions in these matters are thought to be relevant in the U.S. criminal proceedings. 

Swiss authorities had previously frozen US$80 million in 13 bank accounts, following a U.S. request. These assets will remain frozen until all legal assistance proceedings have been concluded. If U.S. prosecutors can obtain a U.S. court order to seize these assets, Swiss authorities said they will be handed over. 

Extradition proceedings 

Only three of the nine football officials arrested in Switzerland initially agreed to be extradited to the United States, but Eduardo Li, Costa Rican Football Federation president and a CONCACAF executive committee member, subsequently withdrew his appeal against extradition, and in December joined Caymanian businessman Webb, Brazilian politician and sports administrator Jose Maria Marin and Paraguayan football executive Juan Angel Napout in U.S. custody. 

Football executive Eugenio Figueredo was extradited to his home country of Uruguay rather than to the U.S. amid competing extradition requests in December. 

Webb’s right-hand man and former Cayman Islands resident Costas Takkas has appealed a ruling ordering his extradition to the U.S. before the Swiss Federal Criminal Court. 

Julio Rocha, a Nicaraguan football administrator and FIFA development officer, and Rafael Esquivel, a Venezuelan football administrator and CONMEBOL executive committee member, have also mounted an appeal. An official extradition request for Alfredo Hawit of Honduras, the president of CONCACAF, has yet to be made. 

Jeffrey Webb
Jeffrey Webb