The United States has formally asked Switzerland to extradite seven FIFA officials arrested in May. The men are accused of money laundering and criminal mismanagement at football’s world governing body.
Switzerland's Federal Office of Justice announced Thursday that the requests were received July 1 from the US embassy in Bern.
The request comes within the 40-day deadline since the group was detained and within the extradition request period outlined in the two countries' bilateral agreement.
The seven FIFA officials, who were arrested in May during a dawn raid on a luxury Zurich hotel, have contested the extradition demand which could see them face 20 years in prison if convicted.
The extradition requests are based on a US investigation into money laundering and criminal mismanagement worth more than $100 billion (90.5 billion euros).
The Swiss Justice Ministry said Thursday in a statement that "these crimes are thought to have been agreed and prepared in the USA, and payments were allegedly routed through US banks."
Zurich canton police are to give the seven officials a hearing on the extradition requests, the Justice office added in a statement. The officials or their lawyers will then have 14 days to respond to the request. Extradition procedures typically last several months.
The seven, which include former FIFA Vice-President Eugenio Figuerdo of Uraguay, Jeffrey Webb of the Cayman Island, Costa Rican soccer federation president Jose Maria Marin, Venezuelan football association chief Rafael Esquivel, FIFA staffer Julio Rocha and Costas Takkas from the UK and a development officer from Nicaragua.
The Swiss Federal Office of Justice gave a statement following the officials’ arrests in May which said US authorities believe the crimes were agreed upon and prepared on US soil, and that payments were made using American banks.
"The bribery suspects - representatives of sports media and sports promotion firms - are alleged to have been involved in schemes to make payments to the football functionaries (FIFA delegates) and other functionaries of FIFA sub-organizations - totaling more than $100 million [90.5 million euros]," the May statement read. "In return, it is believed that they received media, marketing, and sponsorship rights in connection with soccer tournaments in Latin America."
Blatter has 'clear conscience'
FIFA President Sepp Blatter told Thursday's edition of German weekly Bunte, that he is not corrupt and he has a "clear conscience" despite the corrpution probe into the organization.
US law officials have said Blatter is a target of their investigation into racketeering linked to widespread bribery, voting for international tournaments and broadcast rights.
Four days after being re-elected to the top position for a fifth term, Blatter resigned his position.
The date for a new presidential election will be decided at an emergency meeting of FIFA's executive committee on July 20 in Zurich.
jlw/kms (Reuters, AP, AFP)