Charged FIFA officials in Switzerland could hold up US proceedings for months, prosecutor says

31 January 2017 9:54am

17 July 2015. By Richard Vanderford.

Extradition of allegedly corrupt FIFA officials from Switzerland could take months, a US prosecutor said Friday.

Should the officials choose to litigate their extradition and appeal any rulings against them, the process could drag out, Assistant US Attorney Evan M. Norris said at a conference in New York federal court.

“Certainly if there’s extensive litigation it may take several months,” Norris said.

Swiss authorities are detaining six defendants who were arrested in May on charges of involvement in what US Attorney General Loretta Lynch called “rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted” corruption within the soccer association, largely associated with its awarding of rights to host and broadcast tournaments.

Norris also confirmed that a seventh defendant, former FIFA vice president Jeffrey Webb, is now in the US, having decided not to challenge his extradition.

Webb, a citizen of the Cayman Islands, has yet to be arraigned in the US, and Norris said that a date for that hearing has not been set. Under US law, Webb has the right to a speedy appearance before a judge.

Webb’s decision not to contest his extradition and apparent decision not to press for a quick first court appearance has fueled speculation that he might be cooperating with US authorities. Prosecutors would have particularly significant leverage over Webb now, because they have the authority to recommend a lenient bail package.

US District Judge Raymond J. Dearie said the fracturing of the case, with some defendants abroad and others awaiting trial in the US, could pose problems.

“My biggest concern, of course, is how long we wait,” Dearie said.

Another defendant, Aaron Davidson, appeared in court Friday. Davidson, a US citizen who was president of a Florida-based affiliate of sports marketing conglomerate Traffic Group, faces fraud, racketeering and money laundering charges.

Davidson remains free on a $5 million bond; he is in plea discussions with prosecutors, according to a letter they sent Dearie.

The six defendants in Switzerland are Eduardo Li, Julio Rocha, Costas Takkas, Eugenio Figueredo, Rafael Esquivel and José Maria Marin.

All but Takkas and Esquivel held high-level positions directly within FIFA. Takkas served as general secretary to a Cayman Islands FIFA-member organization and as attaché to the president of FIFA Confederation for North and Central America and the Caribbean. Esquivel headed Venezuela’s soccer body and worked on the executive committee of the South American soccer confederation within FIFA.

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