The United States has asked Switzerland to extradite seven Fifa officials arrested on corruption charges in May, the Swiss authorities say.

Formal extradition requests were submitted on Wednesday, the Swiss Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) said.

The seven top Fifa executives arrested in Zurich are among 14 Fifa officials indicted on charges of “rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted” corruption.

The charges follow a major inquiry by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The FOJ said Zurich police, acting on its behalf, would give the seven officials a hearing over the extradition requests.

The officials and their lawyers would have 14 days to respond to the request, which could be extended “if sufficient grounds exist”, the FOJ statement said.

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Analysis: BBC’s Imogen Foulkes, Bern

The formal extraditions were expected. They were delivered to Switzerland’s justice ministry late at night by US diplomats.

The seven Fifa officials now have 14 days to respond. From there the Swiss will rule on whether extradition is warranted.

It is believed they all plan to appeal – a process which could go all the way to Switzerland’s supreme court, and take months.

The other option is to agree to a swift extradition, engage a lawyer in the US, and apply for bail.

The Swiss have made it clear they consider the detained officials to be a flight risk, and will not be granting bail.

Since the seven went from a five star hotel to a prison cell, some may try their luck in the US rather than face the certainty of months in detention in Switzerland.

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After that, the FOJ would give its decision “within a few weeks”, but warned that any ruling could be challenged in both the federal criminal court and the federal supreme court.

Jeffrey Webb, Fifa vice-president in charge of North and Central America, was among those arrested by Swiss police in a raid on a luxury hotel in the early hours of 27 May.

They are currently being held in prisons around the Zurich region.

The seven are among 14 defendants the US has charged with racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering conspiracies.

In a 47-count indictment unveiled in a New York federal court, they were accused of participating “in a 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through the corruption of international soccer”.

The indictment alleges that US and South American sports marketing executives paid and agreed to pay “well over $150m” in bribes and other illegal payments to obtain lucrative media and marketing rights to international football tournaments.

The corruption was planned in the US, even if it was then carried out elsewhere, the indictment said. The use of US banks to transfer money appears to have been key to the investigation.

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Officials pending extradition

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The current and former Fifa executives indicted include Rafael Esquivel, Nicolas Leoz, Jeffrey Webb, Jack Warner, Eduardo Li, Eugenio Figueredo and Jose Maria Marin
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The charges follow a three year FBI investigation, which was initially sparked by the bidding process for the Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022 World Cups, but was then widened to look back at Fifa’s dealings over the past 20 or so years.

Of the 14 charged, the most senior figures – which include Jeffrey Webb and former vice-president Jack Warner – are football powerbrokers in North America, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Fifa President Sepp Blatter has not been arrested or indicted, although both the US and Swiss authorities have said they would not rule out interviewing him as part of their investigations.

He was re-elected as president just three days after the Zurich arrests, but within days he announced he would curtail his presidency as the scandal threatened to engulf the world footballing organisation.

Mr Blatter announced earlier this week that he would not attend the final of the women’s world cup on Sunday, citing personal reasons.

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lynch

As the dust began to settle on Wednesday’s blockbuster indictments against nine Fifa officials and five corporate executives, one person emerged as the face of a long and complicated criminal investigation.

“The pantheon of world soccer has a new hero,” said one journalist. “Football fans everywhere should salute her,” said another. US Attorney General Loretta Lynch had stood up to Fifa, accusing football’s world governing body of “rampant” corruption spanning more than two decades.

After just a month in the job, Ms Lynch had landed an enormous punch. Suddenly her face was on TV screens and newspaper pages around the world. The Department of Justice would, she vowed, “root out misconduct” and “bring wrongdoers to justice”.

It was an extraordinary statement of intent from a woman whose nomination as attorney general had been frustrated for nearly six months as Republican senators blocked her appointment. And it was the payoff for an investigation she had spearheaded for years.

Dreams of Harvard

Born in 1959 in North Carolina, with the odds stacked against her, Ms Lynch harboured a dream of graduating from Harvard. “As a child she was very inquisitive,” her father Lorenzo told the BBC earlier this month. “She asked questions of everybody and about everything.”

Her dream became a reality in 1981 when she earned a first-class degree in English literature, before switching to law. She joined New York law firm Cahill Gordon and Reindel in the mid-1980s and was appointed as a prosecutor for the city’s Eastern District in 1990. Nine years years later, she was US attorney for the district.

It was in Ms Lynch’s first year as district attorney that she caught her first really high-profile case. Abner Louima, a Haitian, was beaten and sexually assaulted by police officers. Amid a storm of public outrage, she prosecuted the officers involved, one of whom was sentenced to 30 years in prison. On one day, she had to be escorted out of the courtroom by US marshals for her own safety.

Ms Lynch left the US Attorney’s office in 2001 to become a partner at Hogan and Hartson law firm, where she remained until 2010 when President Barack Obama nominated her to return to her previous job as US attorney for New York’s Eastern District.

Then in November 2014, Mr Obama nominated her for US attorney general. “If there’s an American dream story, Loretta Lynch is it,” said Democrat senator Chuck Schumer at the time.

Taking on Fifa

In was in her role as district attorney that her involvement in the Fifa investigation began. Over the course of five years in Brooklyn – during which she weathered criticism for striking a deal with HSBC that spared the bank from criminal charges over money laundering – a case against the football officials was pieced together.

“We always knew it was going to be a very large case,” Ms Lynch told the New York Times.

Veins in the network of Fifa corruption alleged by Ms Lynch ran through meeting rooms in the Eastern District and through banking systems across the country, the Department of Justice said. Working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Ms Lynch used those connections to the US to bring the long-awaited indictments.

After years of investigating, she stood up at a press conference in New York and boldly accused Fifa officials of “abusing their positions of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks”. It was an extraordinary blow against an organisation that is alleged to have got away with bribery and corruption for more than two decades.

“The pantheon of world soccer has a new hero,” said Politico’s Tunku Varadarajan.

“To the names of Pele, Maradona, Cruyff and Messi, add another: Loretta Lynch. The US attorney general, confirmed by the Senate just three weeks ago by the most un-soccer-like score of 56-43, is destined to go down as the most consequential woman in the history of the game.”


Bonita MersiadesBonita Mersiades

(CNN) — One of the questions I’ve been asked the most in the 10 days since judge Hans-Joachim Eckert’s summary was published of Michael Garcia’s report into the conduct of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids, is the extent to which I’m upset with the comments about me as the “Australian whistleblower.”

The answer is: not that much — and there are two reasons.


First, the report is an investigation into FIFA of the world governing body’s decisions and processes, conducted by Garcia who is paid by FIFA. The conclusions reached are that there’s really nothing to worry about when it comes to FIFA. Surprise. Do you see the pattern here?  Second, while it wasn’t nice to read what was written about me and it wasn’t what I expected, it is also untrue.

I didn’t expect to read about any of the 75 individuals with whom Garcia met, let alone to see Phaedra Al-Majid and me singled out in such negative terms.

Not only were the two of us referred to as “whistle-blowers” in the pejorative, but I was referred to as “unreliable” and Phaedra — who worked on the successful Qatar bid — was referred to as both “not credible” and “unreliable.”

It was an extraordinary and unprofessional attack by one or both of the two men who preside over FIFA’s Ethics Committee.

While Eckert or Garcia must have their reasons for so openly flouting standards of whistle-blower conventions, the important point is they also accepted the issues that I raised with them.

The issues that are subsequently presented in the summary report related to Australia — and which Eckert refers to as “potentially problematic conduct” — are amongst the matters I discussed with Garcia.

For me, this is the key point as the real issue is FIFA.

In any case, as Garcia himself has claimed, it is also easy to find errors in the summary report.

For example, in the section related to the former FIFA Executive Committee member, Mohamed Bin Hammam, it is noted that Oceania Football Confederation’s (OFC) intention to support Australia’s bid “was publicly reported as early as October 17, 2010.”

Wrong. It was announced by the President of Australia’s football association at a media conference, alongside President Sepp Blatter, in Brisbane on June 1, 2008. This is a matter of public record.

It is curious that either Garcia or Eckert got this date wrong by 28 months because it goes to the heart of issues raised earlier in the summary report, and it is also relevant to what appears to be an illogical conclusion regarding the impact of Reynald Temarii’s eventual absence from taking part in the final vote.

But while the focus of the past four years has been the decisions of the Executive Committee regarding 2018/2022, FIFA has been the subject of corruption allegations for decades.

Concerned about his legacy after the 2018/2022 decisions, Blatter embarked upon successive so-called governance reforms in 2011 that left most people shaking their heads in disbelief.

First, he announced the establishment of a “Council of Wisdom” comprising Henry Kissinger, Placido Domingo and Johan Cruyff.

 

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U.S. launches FIFA corruption probe

When it finally dawned on Blatter that this wasn’t his brightest idea, he invited Transparency International and an independent Swiss governance expert, Professor Mark Pieth to advise him.

Transparency International later quit, raising questions over FIFA’s commitment to reform because Pieth was being paid by the world governing body.

Professor Pieth hung in there for more than two years butcould not chip-away at the cultural change required in the organization.

A high-profile anti-bribery expert who was a member of one of the new committees, Alexandra Wrage, quit in 2013 telling the Guardian: “We all focus our efforts where we can have an impact and I was not having an impact at FIFA.

“It is important the organization you are dealing with is receptive to those efforts and receptive to change.

“The independent governance committee put in a tremendous amount of work and effort putting together some fairly uncontroversial recommendations which were then knocked back,” said Wrage, who is president of the non-profit international anti-bribery group Trace.

FIFA has grown to become an international commercial behemoth — albeit an unaccountable one — in Blatter’s time and he has built the World Cup into one of the most prestigious sporting event on the planet.

But it has been at the expense of the reputation of world football and without regard for the two key stakeholders of the game — players and fans.

FIFA is incapable of reforming itself — and it is time for those of us who love the game and who play the game to ask sponsors, broadcasters and governments to intervene to give us a new world governing body now.

What football should have is an international governing body that has the same level of transparency and accountability that we expect of our governments, major institutions and international organizations.

An international governing body that is responsible to the many millions of people who play the game and the billions who are fans; and one that meets standards befitting an organization that will make a profit of $2 billion from the 2014 World Cup, according to Forbes.

Governments, sponsors and broadcasters should demand an interim time limited administration, led by an eminent person with a broad mandate to develop a new constitution, governance arrangements and policies and to conduct new elections — in other words, an International Olympic Committee-like reform.

Together with Al-Majid I’ve been invited by British MP Damian Collins to help arrange a FIFA reform conference in Brussels in January, which I hope will produce the reforms that the IOC put into place.

Finally, another question I have been asked is whether I would do this again.

Being a whistle-blower means your life changes.

In my case, I raised my concerns internally but my employment was terminated.

It takes a toll financially and emotionally. In a relatively small country like Australia, you lose your livelihood; and, at my stage in life, the financial security you were building for your family.

But we all need to consider how we want our lives measured. We all make choices.

In the case of FIFA, you can play in the sandpit; you can leave your principles at the door; or you can be prepared to be resilient and take the consequences from those who desperately want to maintain the sinecures of the status quo.

 

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