Swiss police arrest 2 top Fifa men
IN A dramatic widening of the Fifa corruption scandal, Swiss police arrested two more top football officials in a dawn raid yesterday, on suspicion that they accepted millions of dollars in bribes.
The Swiss justice ministry (FOJ) confirmed a report that a new operation at a luxury hotel in Zurich had snapped up more Fifa officials, after a similar raid at the same spot last May sparked the unprecedented scandal that has shaken football's world body to its core.
"The high-ranking Fifa officials are alleged to have taken the money in return for selling marketing rights in connection with football tournaments in Latin America, as well as World Cup qualifying matches," the FOJ said in a statement.
The ministry said the two officials targeted were South American Football Confederation president Juan Angel Napout, and Alfredo Hawit, head of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football.
Hawit, a Honduran national, and Napout of Paraguay are both opposing extradition to the United States, the FOJ said.
The ministry's announcement came after The New York Times (NYT) reported the fresh arrests, as Fifa's leadership gathered in Zurich for talks on a reform package aimed at repairing world football's tainted global image.
NYT said that Swiss police entered the five-star Baur au Lac hotel in central Zurich at around 5am GMT (1pm Singapore time) yesterday.
The FOJ said it had ordered Zurich police to detain the two "based on arrest requests submitted by the US Department of Justice on Nov 29".
The US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York suspects the two "of accepting bribes of millions of dollars", the FOJ statement said.
"Some of the offences were agreed and prepared in the US. Payments were also processed via US banks," the FOJ said.
Fifa told Agence France-Presse in an e-mail that it "became aware of the actions taken today by the US Department of Justice". It vowed to "continue to cooperate fully with the US investigation as permitted by Swiss law as well as with the investigation being led by the Swiss Office of the Attorney-General".
The Fifa corruption scandal has seen the organisation's longtime president Sepp Blatter suspended and targeted in a criminal investigation in Switzerland, while Michel Platini, once seen as his likely successor, is also suspended and facing a life ban from football.
As news of the arrests levelled another blow against Fifa's battered credibility, the organisation said its leadership would press ahead with a closely watched meeting considering a reform package.
In October, top sporting official Francois Carrard's reform panel proposed limiting president terms at 12 years and barring those over 74 from serving on the executive. It also suggested the pay package of top officials be published annually and independently audited.
The executive committee will decide whether to send the reform package for adoption at a special Fifa congress on Feb 26, when Blatter's replacement will be chosen.