As the United States began extradition proceedings to bring arrested Fifa officials to the US to face trial, investigators said charges announced on Wednesday were just the beginning.
More football — soccer in the US — officials are under scrutiny as are financial institutions that helped them and those arrested move graft money around to their bank accounts.
“This is the beginning of our effort, not the end,” said Kelly T Currie, lead US prosecutor, adding, “We are looking into individuals and entities in a variety of countries.”
Seven officials were arrested in Zurich, from Fifa’s headquarters in a hotel late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, by Swiss authorities at US request.
But six of them are opposing extradition to the United States, Associated Press reported quoting Swiss officials who said prosecutors had 40 days to make their case.
Those arrested are Jeffrey Webb of the Cayman Islands, Eugenio Figueredo of Uruguay, Eduardo Li of Costa Rica, Julio Rocha of Nicaragua, Costas Takkas of Britain, Rafael Esquivel of Venezuela and Jose Maria Marin of Brazil.
Most of the alleged corruption took place in “the commercialization of the media and marketing rights” — TV/radio broadcast rights and merchandizing — associated with various tournaments and matches administrated by Fifa, including world cup qualifiers.
The US has also alleged that some payments were also made to influence the selection of the host country for the 2010 world cup, South Africa.
Bribes were also paid in connection with the election for Fifa president in 2011, and the choice of sponsor for the Brazilian team — a major US sportswear company won that deal.
The charged soccer officials include Fifa vice-president Jeffrey Webb, who is in charge of the organisation’s north American operations, including the US, and his predecessor.
Other Fifa officials included those running the sport in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, Venezuela and those encourage with Olympics soccer tournaments.
The four indicted executives were heads of two Argentina-based sports marketing companies and one from the US, and one from a broadcasting company who served as an intermediary.
Four people investigated have already pleaded guilty and they include sons of the Trinidad official, an American official and an executive from a Brazilian company.
“The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch in a statement.
“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.”
The indictments were unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn, New York early Wednesday morning, as details of the allegations and arrests trickled in form Zurich.
Swiss authorities have said the arrests were made at the request of the United States, whose investigators continue to raid and search related premises and facilities.
Headquarters of CONCACAF, the body that oversees soccer in 41 nations including the United States, were being searched in Florida, the justice department said in a statement.