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U.S. files extradition request for seven FIFA officials

FIFATHE United States has submitted a formal request for Switzerland to extradite seven FIFA officials arrested in Zurich as part of a corruption probe that has rocked soccer’s world governing body.

Switzerland’s Federal Office of Justice said yesterday that the requests were received from the U.S. embassy in Bern. The expected demands submitted late Wednesday met a 40-day deadline since the seven were detained early May 27 in raids on a luxury hotel in FIFA’s home city.

All seven men detained in Zurich, including three current and former members of FIFA’s executive committee, have already objected to extradition. They face around 20 years in prison.

The widening American investigation already alleges bribery and racketeering worth more than $150 million involving high-ranking FIFA officials over a 24-year span.

The U.S. Department of Justice published an indictment of 14 soccer and marketing officials in May, which alleged bribery linked to awarding broadcast rights for international tournaments in North and South America.

“These crimes are thought to have been agreed and prepared in the USA, and payments were allegedly routed through U.S. banks,” the Swiss justice ministry said in a statement yesterday.

The seven will be heard by Zurich cantonal (State) police and granted a 14-day period to respond to federal officials about the extradition request, the Swiss justice ministry said.

Swiss justice officials will then rule “within a few weeks” on whether to extradite them. That ruling can be appealed to Switzerland’s top criminal court and Supreme Court.

The other seven men among the 14 indicted include disgraced former FIFA vice president Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago, and former FIFA executive committee member Nicolas Leoz of Paraguay, the longtime former president of South American governing body CONMEBOL.

The indictment revealed that Blazer admitted being part of a $10 million bribe scheme with Warner for supporting South Africa’s successful bid to host the 2010 World Cup. A third South American FIFA voter was also involved, Blazer alleged.
FIFA has acknowledged that its secretary general Jerome Valcke helped transfer the money through its accounts at South Africa’s request. FIFA and Valcke said the cash was believed to be for soccer projects for the African diaspora in the Caribbean, and was approved by Julio Grondona of Argentina, the chairman of FIFA’s finance committee who died last year.

American law enforcement officials have confirmed that FIFA president Sepp Blatter is a target of the investigation, which is expected to bring more indictments.

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