ZURICH (AP) — Six soccer officials were arrested and detained by Swiss police on Wednesday pending extradition at the request of U.S. authorities after a raid at a luxury hotel in Zurich.
It was unclear if the probe was linked to the 1994 World Cup hosted by the United States.The case involves bribes “totaling more than $100 million” linked to commercial deals dating back to the 1990s for soccer tournaments in the United States and Latin America, the Swiss Federal Office of Justice said in a statement.
The officials are in Switzerland for the FIFA congress and presidential election, where Sepp Blatter is widely expected to win a fifth term at the helm of the governing body of world soccer.
Blatter was not among the men arrested, FIFA spokesman Walter de Gregorio told The Associated Press.
“He is not involved at all,” De Gregorio said.
Blatter is scheduled to attend a meeting of the Confederation of African Football at 10:30 a.m. (0830 GMT) in a different downtown Zurich hotel.
The arrests were made at the lakeside Baur au Lac Hotel in downtown Zurich, long favored as a place for senior FIFA officials to stay. It was the stage for intense lobbying for votes ahead of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosting decisions in December 2010.
Among the people arrested in Zurich was Costa Rica soccer federation president Eduardo Li, according to the New York Times. Li was elected to the FIFA executive committee in March and will formally join the Blatter-chaired panel on Friday.
The North American regional body, known as CONCACAF, reported itself to U.S. tax authorities in 2012. Then based in New York, the organization had not paid taxes over several years when its president was Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago and secretary general was Chuck Blazer of the United States.
Warner left FIFA and CONCACAF in 2011 to avoid sanctions in a bribery case. Blazer left in 2013 and is reported by the New York Daily News to be cooperating with the FBI in a probe of corruption in soccer.
Warner’s successor as CONCACAF leader and FIFA vice president, Jeffery Webb of the Cayman Islands, was staying at the Baur au Lac this week. It was unclear if he was detained.
The Swiss Federal Office of Justice said in its statement that U.S. authorities suspect the six arrested officials of having received or paid bribes totaling millions of dollars and that the crimes were agreed to and prepared in the U.S., and payments carried out via U.S. banks.
The FOJ said the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York is investigating the individuals on suspicion of the acceptance of bribes and kick-backs between the early 1990s and now.
“The bribery suspects — representatives of sports media and sports promotion firms — are alleged to have been involved in schemes to make payments to the soccer functionaries (FIFA delegates) and other functionaries of FIFA sub-organizations – totaling more than USD 100 million,” the FOJ statement said. “In return, it is believed that they received media, marketing, and sponsorship rights in connection with soccer tournaments in Latin America.”
A statement in German added that the probe involved tournaments in the United States.