The Department of Justice confirmed Thursday that CONCACAF President Alfredo Hawit of Honduras and CONMEBOL President Juan Angel Napout of Paraguay were among those arrested in the widening investigation into bribery and corruption within FIFA, world soccer’s governing body.
Both men have opposed their extradition to the United States at Zurich police hearings, Switzerland’s justice ministry said in a statement. The arrests came during a pre-dawn raid at the luxury Baur au Lac hotel in downtown Zurich, the same place where arrests on May 27 sparked the FIFA corruption crisis.
The two are among five current and former members of FIFA’s ruling executive committee indicted as part of a widening investigation headed by the FBI and DOJ. A total of 16 men were named in Thursday’s indictments including Ricardo Teixeira, a former Brazilian federation head. He is the former son-in-law of Joao Havelange, who was FIFA’s president from 1974-98. Ten current and former members of FIFA’s executive committee have now been charged.
The raids were conducted before the second day of a scheduled two-day FIFA executive council meeting to discuss measures intended to reform the body.
“According to the U.S. arrest requests, they are suspected of accepting bribes of millions of dollars,” the justice ministry said of Hawit and Napout. “Some of the offenses were agreed and prepared in the USA. Payments were also processed via U.S. banks.”
According to the Associated Press, the bribes are linked to marketing rights for the Copa America — including the 2016 edition hosted in the U.S. — and World Cup qualifying matches.
CONMEBOL is the soccer federation overseeing the game in South America and CONCACAF is the ruling body for the sport in North America, South America and the Caribbean. Hawit and Napout are the third past or current presidents of each continental body to be indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice since May in a case that has shattered the reputations of soccer leaders in Latin America.
“CONCACAF continues to cooperate with all government authorities in their investigations to the fullest extent,” the Miami-based governing body said in a statement.
“Events underscore the necessity to establish a complete program of reforms for FIFA today,” said interim FIFA President Issa Hayatou, who stepped in when Blatter was suspended from duty in a separate case of financial wrongdoing in October.
The arrests Thursday follow increased activity in the FIFA bribery case in recent weeks, with South American soccer leaders targeted, the Associated Press reported.
FIFA executive committee member Luis Bedoya of Colombia resigned his position last month. Colombian prosecutors said they are investigating financial transactions by Bedoya and requested information from U.S. authorities.
Chilean soccer federation president Sergio Jadue also resigned last month and traveled to Miami amid media reports he was cooperating with U.S. investigators.
The indictment published in May said most presidents of the 10 South American federations would receive $1.5 million in bribes from marketing company Datisa from each of four editions of the Copa America being played from 2015 through 2023.
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