Tuesday 25 October 2016

Fifa chiefs Napout and Hawit among 16 more indicted in US corruption probe

Published 03/12/2015 | 07:31

The two senior Fifa officials were arrested in a pre-dawn raid of the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich (AP)
The two senior Fifa officials were arrested in a pre-dawn raid of the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich (AP)

Five current and former members of Fifa's ruling executive committee are among 16 additional men indicted on corruption charges as part of US prosecutors' widening investigation into soccer corruption.

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Juan Angel Napout, of Paraguay, president of the South American confederation, and Alfredo Hawit, of Honduras, head of the North and Central American and Caribbean governing body, were l ed away by Swiss federal police in a pre-dawn raid at a hotel in Zurich, Switzerland, on Thursday.

The action came just before Fifa's executive committee met to approve reform measures.

Ricardo Teixeira, a former Brazilian federation head, was also indicted. He is the former son-in-law of Joao Havelange, who was Fifa's president from 1974-98.

Ten current and former members of Fifa's executive committee have now been charged.

Both Napout and Hawit have opposed their extradition to the US at Zurich police hearings, Switzerland's justice ministry said in a statement.

Hours earlier, Swiss police made pre-dawn raids at the luxury Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich, the same place where arrests on May 27 sparked the Fifa corruption crisis.

"According to the US arrest requests, they are suspected of accepting bribes of millions of dollars," the justice ministry said.

The bribes are linked to marketing rights for the Copa America - including the 2016 edition hosted in the United States - and World Cup qualifying matches.

The arrests were made ahead of a Fifa executive committee meeting which approved wide-ranging reforms to help protect against corrupt officials.

The reforms are a response to the dual American and Swiss federal investigations of corruption implicating Fifa leaders and which forced President Sepp Blatter to announce his resignation plans in June.

Fernando Sarney, a Fifa executive committee member from Brazil, said the arrests tainted what was intended to be a milestone day for the governing body.

Modernising changes supported on Thursday include taking many decision-making powers from the executive panel, to be renamed the Fifa Council, with more men and women members. Future presidents and council members will be limited to 12 years in office. Fifa's 209-member federations must vote on the changes on February 26.

"It was like someone had died, that was the atmosphere inside," Mr Sarney told reporters after the meeting. "Everybody was surprised, the feeling was like it's happening again, that it's something we think is personal."

On May 27, the US Department of Justice named two more Fifa vice presidents - Napout and Hawit's predecessors, Eugenio Figueredo and Jeffrey Webb, respectively - among 14 soccer and marketing officials indicted.

They were linked to bribes worth tens of millions of dollars for the Copa America and other regional tournaments in South and Central America. Four other men made guilty pleas.

Fifa interim President Issa Hayatou stepped in when Blatter was suspended from duty by Fifa in a separate case of financial wrongdoing in October.

The arrests follow increased activity in the Fifa bribery case in recent weeks.

Fifa executive committee member Luis Bedoya, of Colombia, resigned his position last month. Colombian prosecutors said they are investigating financial transactions by Bedoya and requested information from US authorities.

Chilean football federation president Sergio Jadue also resigned last month.

The last six months have been the most turbulent period of Blatter's 17-year reign as Fifa president.

The Swiss official was re-elected as Fifa president on May 29, two days after a raid in Zurich by Swiss police resulted in seven officials being arrested and criminal proceedings being opened regarding "systematic and deep-rooted" corruption in soccer.

As a result of the Swiss investigation, Blatter and Uefa President Michel Platini are currently serving 90-day suspensions amid Fifa ethics investigations involving two million US dollars (£1.34 million) of Fifa money Blatter approved for Platini in 2011 as backdated salary.

Both face lifetime bans at ethics hearings expected this month.

Press Association

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