GENEVA, May 27- Seven football officials were arrested in Zurich early Wednesday upon request from US authorities, suspected of receiving bribes worth millions of dollars, Swiss authorities said.
The US Justice Department announced conspiracy and corruption charges against nine FIFA officials and five business executives, after Swiss authorities arrested seven suspects based on the indictments.
The 14 officials and executives were charged with a bribery and kickback scheme that spanned over a 24-year period. The Justice Department revealed that four individuals and two companies have already pleaded guilty in the case rocking football’s world governing body.
“It spans at least two generations of soccer officials who, as alleged, have abused their positions of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in the Justice Department statement about the charges.
At the same time as the indictments were unsealed, authorities raided the CONCACAF soccer association headquarters in Miami as part of the case. The organization coordinates the sport in North and Central America and the Caribbean.
According to the Justice Department, the defendants include Jeffrey Webb, FIFA vice president, executive committee member and CONCACAF president; Eduardo Li, FIFA executive committee member-elect and CONCACAF executive committee member; Julio Rocha, FIFA development officer; Costas Takkas, attache to the CONCACAF president; and Jack Warner, former FIFA vice president and ex-CONCACAF president.
Others are: Eugenio Figueredo, current FIFA vice president and executive committee member; Rafael Esquivel, current CONMEBOL executive committee member; Jose Maria Marin, current member of the FIFA organizing committee for the Olympics; and Nicolas Leoz, former FIFA executive committee member.
The sports marketing executives charged include: Alejandro Burzaco, controlling principal of Torneos y Competencias S.A.; Aaron Davidson, president of Traffic Sports USA Inc.; and Hugo and Mariano Jinkis, controlling principals of Full Play Group S.A.
Defendant Jose Margulies was in the broadcasting business but allegedly served as a payment intermediary, the Justice Department said.
The four who have pleaded guilty are: Daryll Warner, a former FIFA development officer and son of Jack Warner, the former CONCACAF president; Daryan Warner, who holds dual nationality from Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada; Charles Blazer, former CONCACAF general secretary and a former FIFA executive committee member; and Jose Hawilla, owner of the Brazilian sports marketing Traffic Group.
The seven arrested in Zurich are: Webb, Li, Rocha, Takkas, Figueredo, Esquivel and Marin.
– Blatter not targeted-
FIFA president Sepp Blatter and its general secretary Jerome Valcke are not implicated in a corruption probe the organisation’s spokesman confirmed.
“The general secretary and the president are not involved in this,” spokesman Walter De Gregoria told a hastily-arranged press conference.
He also said that the FIFA Congress to vote for who would be its president for the next four years would go ahead as planned in Zurich on Friday.
The announcements followed the dawn arrests of several top football officials in a Zurich hotel and a Swiss police raid on FIFA headquarters as part of a probe into the votes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup which went respectively to Russia and Qatar.