Swiss authorities confirm FIFA arrests

The two officials were arrested by the Zurich cantonal police ahead of a two-day meeting of FIFA's executive committee to vote on reforms within world football's governing body.

FIFA World Cup trophy

FIFA World Cup trophy

Two FIFA officials were arrested in Zurich early on Thursday, the Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) has confirmed.

According to US arrest requests, they are suspected of accepting bribes of millions of dollars and are being held in custody pending extradition, an FOJ statement said.

The two officials were arrested by the Zurich cantonal police ahead of a two-day meeting of FIFA's executive committee to vote on reforms within world football's governing body.

"The detention orders issued by the FOJ are based on arrest requests submitted by the United States Department of Justice on 29 November 2015. In the light of further investigations conducted by the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York, these individuals are now also suspected of having received bribes," a FOJ statement reads.

"The high-ranking FIFA officials are alleged to have taken the money in return for selling marketing rights in connection with football tournaments in Latin America, as well as World Cup qualifying matches. According to the arrest requests, some of the offences were agreed and prepared in the USA. Payments were also processed via US banks.

"On behalf of the FOJ, the Zurich cantonal police will hold hearings on the US arrest requests before the end of Thursday. Simplified proceedings apply if the wanted person declares at the hearing that they agree to be extradited immediately. In such cases, the FOJ may approve extradition to the USA immediately, and order its completion.

"However, should any person oppose their extradition, the FOJ will ask the USA to submit a formal extradition request within the 40-day deadline laid down in the bilateral extradition treaty."

The FOJ is due to announce the names of those arrested and the outcome of the hearings later on Thursday. FIFA, meanwhile, has insisted it will continue to co-operate with the US investigation in the wake of Thursday morning's events.

"FIFA became aware of the actions taken today by the US Department of Justice," world football's governing body said in a statement. "FIFA will continue to co-operate fully with the US investigation as permitted by Swiss law, as well as with the investigation being led by the Swiss Office of the Attorney General."

Thursday's events follow previous police actions in May, when seven FIFA officials were arrested for alleged racketeering, conspiracy and corruption. Two of the seven former FIFA officials arrested in Zurich on 27 May 2015 agreed to simplified extradition proceedings. Jeffrey Webb and Jose Maria Marin were then transferred to the US authorities on 15 July and 3 November respectively.

However, the other five – Eugenio Figueredo, Eduardo Li, Julio Rocha, Costas Takkas and Rafael Esquivel – opposed their extradition to the USA, and their appeals against the FOJ's rulings are pending before the Federal Criminal Court.

The events in May eventually led to Sepp Blatter's decision to step down as FIFA president just days after winning a fifth term in charge of the governing body, with a new president to be elected on February 26 2016.

Blatter has since been hit with a provisional 90-day ban from all football-related activities by FIFA's ethics committee after a criminal investigation was opened into allegations he sold a World Cup TV rights contract to former FIFA official Jack Warner in a deal that was unfavourable for FIFA and that the 79-year-old made a disloyal payment of two million Swiss francs to Michel Platini, with the Frenchman and secretary general Jerome Valcke also receiving provisional bans following the corruption claims.

Issa Hayatou, who heads the Confederation of African Football (CAF), is the acting FIFA president during Blatter's ban, but will not stand for election during February's vote. Jerome Champagne, Gianni Infantino, Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa, Tokyo Sexwale and Prince Ali bin al-Hussein are due to run for the presidency early next year.

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