Two officials from football’s world governing body FIFA have been arrested on suspicion “of accepting bribes of millions of dollars”.
Swiss police made a raid on the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich – a luxury establishment used by FIFA officials – for the second time this year on behalf of the US Department of Justice.
The two men are vice-presidents Juan Angel Napout, from Paraguay – the most powerful man in South American football – and Alfredo Hawit, the president of CONCACAF, from Honduras. Hawit could become the third president of CONCACAF to be charged, following Jack Warner and Jeffrey Webb.
Two people were seen being taken to the hotel garage and shortly afterwards two unmarked cars, which appeared to be police vehicles, drove away from the establishment.
The 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.
The Swiss Attorney General confirmed: “They are in custody pending extradition – which could be approved today if they agree to be extradited immediately.
“However, should the two FIFA officials oppose their extradition, US officials will have to submit formal extradition requests within the 40-day deadline laid down in the bilateral extradition treaty.”
Both men are reportedly resisting extradition.
Authorities in Switzerland, where FIFA has its headquarters, and in the United States, are investigating current and former senior football officials on charges that include racketeering, money laundering and fraud.
In a statement FIFA said: “FIFA became aware of the actions taken today by the US Department of Justice. 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.”
Authorities have said for months to expect a second wave of corruption charges following those in May against 14 officials and sports marketing executives with paying and taking bribes.
Since May there has also been a shake-up of FIFA’s leadership. President Sepp Blatter and Secretary General Jerome Valcke were both suspended by an internal ethics watchdog, although neither has been charged with a crime and both say they have done nothing wrong.
Blatter said in June he would resign more than three years early, and FIFA’s congress is scheduled to elect his successor in February.