New York Times alleges that Chaguanas West MP Jack Warner among FIFA officials set for indictment and extradition request from United States Attorney General:
Swiss authorities began an extraordinary early-morning operation here Wednesday to arrest several top soccer officials and extradite them to the United States on federal corruption charges.
As leaders of FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, gathered for their annual meeting, more than a dozen plain-clothed Swiss law enforcement officials arrived unannounced at the Baur au Lac hotel, an elegant five-star property with views of the Alps and Lake Zurich.
The arrests were carried out peacefully, with at least two men being ushered out of the hotel without handcuffs. One agent carried what appeared to be evidence bags containing medication and money. One FIFA official, Eduardo Li of Costa Rica, was led by the authorities from his room to a side-door exit of the hotel. He was allowed to bring his luggage, which was adorned with FIFA logos.
The charges allege widespread corruption in FIFA over the past two decades, involving bids for World Cups as well as marketing and broadcast deals, according to three law enforcement officials with direct knowledge of the case. The charges include wire fraud, racketeering and money laundering, and officials said they targeted members of FIFA’s powerful executive committee, which wields enormous power and does its business largely in secret.
The arrests were a startling blow to FIFA, a multibillion-dollar organization that governs the world’s most popular sport but has been plagued by accusations of bribery for decades.
The inquiry is also a major threat to Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s longtime president who is generally recognized as the most powerful person in sports, though he was not charged. An election, seemingly pre-ordained to give him a fifth term as president, is scheduled for Friday.
Prosecutors planned to unseal an indictment against more than 10 officials, not all of whom are in Zurich, law enforcement officials said. Among them are Jeffrey Webb of the Cayman Islands, a vice president of the executive committee; Eugenio Figueredo of Uruguay, who is also an executive committee vice president and until recently was the president of South America’s soccer association; and Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago, a former member of the executive committee who has been accused of numerous ethical violations.
“We’re struck by just how long this went on for and how it touched nearly every part of what FIFA did,” said a law enforcement official. “It just seemed to permeate every element of the federation and was just their way of doing business. It seems like this corruption was institutionalized.”
The Justice Department, the FBI and FIFA did not have any immediate comment.
The case is the most significant yet for United States Attorney General Loretta E Lynch, who took office last month. She previously served as the United States attorney in Brooklyn, where she supervised the FIFA investigation. Ms Lynch and FBI Director James Comey were expected to hold a news conference on Wednesday morning in New York.
With more than US$1.5 billion in reserves, FIFA is as much a global financial conglomerate as a sports organization. With countries around the world competing aggressively to win the bid to host the World Cup, Mr. Blatter has commanded the fealty of anyone who wanted a piece of that revenue stream. He and FIFA have weathered corruption controversies in the past, but none involved charges of federal crimes in United States court.
Editor’s Note: Click HERE to read full story by NY Times reporters Matt Apuzzo, Michael S Schmidt, William K Rashbauu and Sam Bordenmay.