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Monday 5 December 2016

New arrests in Zurich deepens FIFA crisis

Issa Hayatou
Issa Hayatou

FIFA's corruption scandal hit new depths yesterday after two of the organisation's vice-presidents were arrested in a pre-dawn raid with two other former senior officials indicted on corruption charges.

The luxury Baur Au Lac hotel used by FIFA officials was swooped upon for the second time this year, with FIFA vice-presidents Alfredo Hawit of Honduras and Juan Angel Napout of Paraguay detained on orders issued by the Swiss Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) on behalf of the US Department of Justice.

Charges are also expected to be confirmed against Ricardo Teixeira, the disgraced Brazilian who quit FIFA's executive committee in 2012 after it was revealed he had received millions of euros in bribes from FIFA's former marketing company ISL, and his successor Marco Polo Del Nero. Brazil newspaper Estadao and the New York Times both quoted US law enforcement sources saying the pair are to be indicted.

A total of 16 indictments are expected to be announced by the US Department of Justice.

Hawit was appointed interim president of CONCACAF, which covers countries from north and central America and the Caribbean, after his predecessor Jeffrey Webb was arrested in a similar swoop in May. Napout is the president of CONMEBOL, the South American confederation. FIFA president Sepp Blatter was not arrested as part of the latest raid.

A statement from the FOJ said: "The two FIFA officials arrested in Zurich on the instructions of the Federal Office of Justice were today also given hearings by the Zurich cantonal police on the US arrest requests. They are opposing their extradition to the USA.

"According to the US arrest requests, they are suspected of accepting bribes of millions of dollars.

"They 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."

At a news conference, acting FIFA president Issa Hayatou insisted that neither he nor the organisation is corrupt.

Hayatou said: "FIFA is not corrupt. We have individuals that have shown negative behaviour. Do not generalise the situation. There are lots of people in FIFA for more than 20 or 30 years that have not been accused of anything."

In 2011 Hayatou was named by a Parliamentary select committee of having been accused by a whistleblower of accepting a 1.5million US dollar bribe from Qatar during the bidding process for the 2022 World Cup - both he and Qatar denied the charge, and the whistleblower later retracted the claim.

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