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U.S. asks Switzerland to extradite 7 FIFA officials

FIFA's president Sepp Blatter.FIFA's president Sepp Blatter.
FIFA's president Sepp Blatter.Photograph by Michael Buholzer — AFP/Getty Images

The United States has formally asked Switzerland to extradite seven officials from FIFA, world soccer’s governing body, who were arrested in a corruption probe in May.

The requests were expected, and are the natural next step in terms of procedure. The Swiss Police will give each of the arrested officials extradition hearings and give them 14 days to respond. If the Swiss authorities think there is sufficient grounds, they can give them another 14 days

The seven, who are suspected of processing over $100 million in bribes tied to the award of FIFA tournaments such as the World Cup, and to related marketing and broadcasting rights, are all expected to resist extradition, although only one so far has lodged a formal appeal, according to the Swiss Federal Justice Office. Under Swiss law, the appeal process can go all the way to the country’s Supreme Court–a process that could take some months. At present the seven officials, all from central and south America, are all being detained in local jails, having been refused bail on the grounds that they are ‘flight risks’.

 

The arrests, in a dramatic early morning raid on the luxury Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich, have shaken the world of soccer, leading to the resignation of FIFA’s controversial long-time president, Sepp Blatter and raising desperately uncomfortable questions for FIFA’s commercial partners, who include McDonald’s Corp (MCD) and Germany’s Adidas AG (ADDYY).

Blatter himself has so far not been implicated in the scandal, but he has taken the unprecedented step of staying away from the FIFA Women’s World Cup, currently taking place in Canada, amid speculation that he might be served with a U.S. request for extradition order while visiting. His number two at FIFA, Secretary-General Jerome Valcke, has been named in documents that appear to implicate him, but Valcke has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Sweden had been asked Sweden to extradite FIFA officials.