Swiss expect to decide on FIFA extraditions in September


Swiss authorities expect to decide in September whether to extradite six soccer officials to face corruption charges in the United States, a Justice Ministry spokesman said.

The accused men, who are in custody and whose lawyers are opposing their extradition to New York, would have 30 days to appeal decisions to the Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona – a process that could take several months.

“We have received all responses. Now we are able to examine whether conditions are fulfilled to grant extradition and take our decision,” ministry spokesman Folco Galli told Reuters.

“The first decisions should come in September,” he said, speaking late on Monday in his office in the Swiss capital.

Extradition is allowed if an alleged offense is punishable by at least a year in jail under both Swiss and U.S. law. Swiss authorities must rule on whether this “dual criminality” rule is met, rather than on whether the defendant is guilty or innocent.

Several officials from FIFA, world soccer’s governing body, were among 14 men indicted in the United States in late May on bribery, money laundering and wire fraud charges involving more than $150 million in payments.

Galli declined to say how much money has been blocked at several banks in Switzerland as it is a “pending proceeding”.

“We have ordered (the banks) to freeze the bank accounts mentioned in the (U.S.) request. Now we are taking evidence. We are receiving the bank documents. It takes time,” he said.

Seven of the accused were arrested at a Zurich hotel days before the FIFA Congress where FIFA President Sepp Blatter was re-elected to a fifth term. Blatter later announced he was quitting and his replacement is due to be elected on Feb. 26.

Former FIFA Vice President Jeffrey Webb, a Cayman Islands national, agreed to extradition to the United States in July. He has pleaded not guilty in a U.S. federal court in New York.

One of the six in detention in Zurich, former FIFA Development Officer Julio Rocha, agreed on Aug. 14 to an extradition request sent by his native Nicaragua.

Switzerland has asked the United States whether it agrees to Nicaragua being given priority to prosecute Rocha, a former president of Nicaragua’s soccer association.

A U.S. decision on Rocha is expected “any moment”, a legal source said on Monday, declining to be named.

If the United States does not give priority to Nicaragua, Swiss authorities must decide which country gets priority.

Switzerland has an extradition treaty with the United States but not with Nicaragua. -REUTERS