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Jaws snap shut on Fifa

28 May 2015 - 02:10 By Reuters

Seven of the most powerful figures in global soccer face extradition to the US on corruption charges after their arrest yesterday in Switzerland. And the Swiss have announced a criminal investigation of their own into money-laundering related to the awarding by Fifa of hosting rights for the next two World Cup competitions: in Russia in 2018 and in Qatar in 2022.US authorities said nine soccer officials, and five sports media and promotions executives faced corruption charges involving more than $150-million in bribes.In pursuit of the US case, Swiss police arrested seven officials of Fifa, soccer's powerful world governing body, who are now awaiting extradition to the US.US officials gave details of a case in which they said they exposed complex money-laundering schemes, found millions of dollars in untaxed income and tens of millions in offshore accounts held by Fifa officials.At a New York press conference, US attorney-general Loretta Lynch said the authorities were seeking the arrest of others.One of those indicted, former Fifa vice-president Jack Warner, of Trinidad, solicited $10-million in bribes from the South African government to swing the hosting of the 2010 soccer World Cup, the Justice Department said. Warner says he is innocent.Those arrested did not include Sepp Blatter, the Swiss head of Fifa, but included several men just below him in the hierarchy of sport's wealthiest body.Lynch said the US was not charging Blatter "at this time".Of the 14 indicted by the US Department of Justice, seven Fifa officials, including vice-president Jeffrey Webb, were being held in Zurich. Four people and two corporate defendants have already pleaded guilty to various charges.The guilty pleas were those of Charles Blazer, a former US representative on Fifa's executive committee, and José Hawilla, owner of The Traffic Group, a sports marketing firm, and two of his companies."The defendants fostered a culture of corruption and greed that created an uneven playing field for the biggest sport in the world," said FBI director James Comey."Illegal payments, kickbacks, and bribes became a way of doing business at Fifa."The Fifa officials appeared to have walked into a trap set by US and Swiss authorities.The arrests were made at dawn at a plush Zurich hotel, the Baur au Lac, at which Fifa officials are staying before a vote this week that is expected to anoint Blatter for a fifth term in office. Suites at the hotel cost up to $4000 a night...

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