Monday 19 March 2018

Two FIFA officials are arrested in dawn raid

Issa Hayatou, acting FIFA President
Issa Hayatou, acting FIFA President

Louis Rees

Two FIFA vice-presidents have been arrested in a dawn raid at a Swiss hotel on suspicion of accepting millions of dollars of bribes.

Concacaf president Alfredo Hawit and Conmebol president Juan Angel Napout were taken from the Baur au Lac hotel, Zurich, where several FIFA officials were also arrested in May.

FIFA's executive committee has been meeting in the city, voting on reforms. It says it will "fully cooperate" with separate US and Swiss investigations.

The US Department of Justice requested the arrests as part of its ongoing investigation into corruption in football's world governing body.

Hawit (64) is interim president for North, Central America and Caribbean football, while Napout (57) oversees football in the South American confederation.

They are alleged to have taken money for selling marketing rights in connection with football tournaments in Latin America, as well as World Cup qualifying matches, the Swiss Federal Office of Justice (FoJ) said.

"FIFA is aware of the actions taken today by the US Department of Justice," the governing body said in a statement.

"FIFA will continue to cooperate 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. FIFA will have no further comment on today's developments."

It is a further strike by the US Department of Justice at the heart of FIFA ahead of a key meeting of soccer's international leaders.

The arrests were made ahead of a 9am FIFA executive committee meeting, which is scheduled to approve 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.

On May 27, the US Department of Justice indicted two FIFA vice-presidents among 14 soccer and marketing officials 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.

The men could face extradition proceedings.

"According to the arrest requests, some of the offences were agreed and prepared in the USA. Payments were also processed via US banks," the Swiss justice ministry said.

The arrests follow increased activity in the FIFA bribery case in recent weeks, with many South American soccer leaders targeted.

Irish Independent

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