U.S. Embassy officials in Switzerland have filed formal extradition requests with the country’s government to bring seven detained international soccer figures to the United States for trial.
Among them is Eduardo Li, a member of the international governing body’s executive committee and the head of the Costa Rican soccer football federation. He has said that he will fight extradition.
The seven were detained in May when the Fédération Internationale de Football Association was holding a meeting in Zurich.
Legal experts estimate that the hearings on extradition might take six months and that there is an opportunity for court appeals after than.
Even if Li avoids extradition, he would be stuck in Switzerland because if he leaves, the United States will renew the process in whatever country he enters. In Costa Rica he is immune to extradition because of a constitutional provision.
Swiss justice officials confirmed today they have received the requests for the seven officials who were arrested on suspicion of bribery, according to wire service reports. The allegations are that the officials took large amounts of money to provide certain sports companies with rights to broadcast international soccer games.
Also jailed with Li in Switzerland are two association vice presidents, Eugenio Figueredo, president of a South American soccer football organization, and Jeffrey Webb, the head of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football, which includes Costa Rica.
A U.S. indictment issued in May charges nine soccer officials and five corporate executives with offenses that include racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering.
A separate Swiss investigation has been looking into allegations of mismanagement and money laundering connected to the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar.
Swiss prosecutors are investigating 53 possible money-laundering incidents involving the bidding process for the two World Cups.
Swiss attorney-general Michael Lauber has said that the transactions were reported by banks through Switzerland’s anti-money laundering alert system. Lauber said banks had done their duty in reporting the activity and warned that the case was huge and complex.
The international association has suspended the bidding process for the 2026 World Cup because of the controversy.