Costa Rican soccer chief among those detained

Swiss police have detained at least 10 soccer federation officials and associates today on corruption charges that originated in the United States. Among those held is Costa Rica soccer federation president Eduardo Li, according to The New York Times.

U.S. officials said the indictment includes corruption charges against more than 10 individuals and is the result of a multi-year investigation.

The federation is the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, soccer’s international governing body.  Li was elected to the federation executive committee in March

The New York Times said that charges include include racketeering, wire fraud and a money laundering conspiracy.

The federation is holding its annual meeting in the Baur au Lac Hotel in Zurich.  The meeting was expected to re-elect  Sepp Blatter, 79,  to a fifth term as president.

Blatter has visited Costa Rica.

The U.S. Justice Department was expected to publicly announce the arrests later today.

U.S. law enforcement officials said the indictment includes corruption charges against more than 10 federation officials and is the result of a multi-year investigation.

Switzerland’s Federal Office of Justice said six officials were arrested Wednesday pending extradition to the United States.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York is investigating these individuals on suspicion of the acceptance of bribes and kickbacks between the early 1990s and the present day,” the federal office said in a statement.

It said the allegations include more than $100 million in payments from representatives of sports media companies in order to get “media, marketing and sponsorship rights in connection with soccer tournaments in Latin America.”

Blatter is not among those being charged.

The charges are the latest allegations of corruption involving the federation under Blatter’s leadership.  The bidding contests for both the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments prompted an investigation by the group’s ethics committee, which concluded in November there were only limited ethics breaches and not sufficient evidence of bribery.

Russia will host the 2018 World Cup and Qatar the 2022 event.

The federation’s Web site stresses its commitment to ethics, including a confidential system to report wrongdoing and what it calls a zero tolerance policy for corruption of all kinds. It further says that officials undergo integrity checks to ensure they are properly screened before given responsibility.

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