Swiss police arrest FIFA officials suspected of taking millions in bribes

December 3, 2015, 12:23pm

By Evan Perez and Shimon Prokupecz, CNN. Photo: Wikipedia

(CNN) More arrests and more allegations of bribery -- seemingly just another day at the organization that's in charge of running one of the world's most popular sports.

Swiss police have arrested two FIFA officials on suspicion of accepting "millions of dollars" in bribes, according to a statement from the Swiss Federal Office of Justice.

The arrests were the latest blow for FIFA in what is proving a miserable 2015 for the soccer body.

Its 79-year-old president Sepp Blatter and another leading official Michel Platini -- the UEFA president -- are currently suspended for 90 days after the Swiss attorney general opened criminal proceedings against the Swiss.

And in May, 14 executives with ties to FIFA were accused of taking bribes totaling more than $150 million.

The arrests in Zurich early Thursday were part of an operation requested by U.S. authorities, as the U.S. Department of Justice prepares to announce a new round of charges against multiple officials and executives tied to alleged corruption at football's world governing body.

"On the instructions of the (Swiss) Federal Office of Justice, a further two FIFA officials were arrested in Zurich today," the statement read.

"They are being held in custody pending their extradition. According to U.S. arrest requests, they are suspected of accepting bribes of millions of dollars.

Hershman talks FIFA suspensions

"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.

"According to the arrest requests, some of the offenses were agreed and prepared in the USA. Payments were also processed via U.S. banks," the statement added, explaining why the U.S. was in a position to ask for the arrests.

The move represents an escalation in the U.S. corruption probe that has already thrown FIFA into disarray.

The identities of those arrested is not yet clear. FIFA released a statement saying it was aware of the arrests of two of its officials.

"FIFA will continue to cooperate fully with the U.S. investigation as permitted by Swiss law, as well as with the investigation being led by the Swiss Office of the Attorney General. FIFA will have no further comment on today's developments."

Accusations of racketeering

In May, U.S. prosecutors unveiled a 47-count indictment against 14 executives with ties to FIFA and companies with commercial ties to the organization.

They accused FIFA officials of taking bribes totaling more than $150 million and in return providing "lucrative media and marketing rights" to soccer tournaments as kickbacks over the past 24 years.

Those charges included racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy.

Swiss police, acting on requests by the U.S., launched pre-dawn raids at a luxury hotel in Zurich to arrest seven of those charged in the May indictments.

World sports in crisis

Several of those charged have now surrendered to U.S. authorities in New York under agreements to cooperate with the FBI investigation, according to U.S. law enforcement officials.

Separately, Swiss officials have been investigating corruption allegations surrounding the next two football World Cups. FIFA's flagship tournament is set to be held in Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022.

Both Russia and Qatar have publicly denied any wrongdoing with regards to the bidding processes of the two tournaments.