FIFA Update: Six Developments Concerning Jack Warner, Sepp Blatter, Eduardo Li, Rafael Esquivel, Costas Takkas and Julio Rocha

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In six significant developments in the FIFA corruption investigation:

Jack Warner Hearing Postponed

On 25 September 2015, authorities in Trinidad and Tobago postponed the extradition hearing of former FIFA Vice President, Jack Warner, to 2 December 2015. A report is here.

This followed a request by Mr Warner’s lawyers for more time, in order to travel to the United States and discuss extradition terms. Mr Warner remains subject to weekly police reporting conditions and his passport has been seized.

Mr Warner’s extradition had been approved by authorities in Trinidad and Tobago on 21 September 2015. A blog is here.

On 29 September 2015, it was further reported that Mr Warner had been banned for life from football-related business by FIFA’s Ethics Committee. On 21 October 2015, the investigatory chamber of the Ethics Committee confirmed that proceedings are ongoing against both men.

Sepp Blatter Under Criminal Investigation

On 25 September 2015, the Swiss Attorney General’s Office (OAG) also announced that criminal proceedings had been commenced against the President of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, on suspicion of criminal mismanagement as well as the alternative offence of misappropriation.

The allegations against Mr Blatter amount to offences contrary to Article 158 of the Swiss Criminal Code (SCC), and Article 138 SCC, respectively. The OAG press report is here.

The OAG alleges that, on 12 September 2005, Mr Blatter signed a contract with the Caribbean Football Union (with Mr Warner as the President at this time), and that this contract was unfavorable for FIFA. It is also alleged that, in the implementation of this agreement, Mr Blatter violated his fiduciary duties and acted against the interest of FIFA and/or FIFA Marketing & TV AG.

Additionally, Mr Blatter is suspected of a “disloyal payment” (i.e. a payment made against FIFA’s best interests) of two million Swiss Francs to Michel Platini, President of Union of European Football Association (UEFA), at the expense of FIFA, which was allegedly made for work performed between January 1999 and June 2002; this payment was executed in February 2011.

Mr Blatter was interviewed by OAG representatives on 25 September 2015. Mr Platini was heard as a “person asked to provide information”, pursuant to Article 178 of the Swiss Code of Criminal Procedure, on the same day. Both men deny any wrongdoing.

On 8 September 2015, Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini were provisionally suspended by the FIFA Ethics Committee for 90 days, while corruption claims are being investigated.

Eduardo Li Extradition Approved

On 29 September 2015, the Swiss Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) approved a US extradition request for the former President of the Costa Rican Football Federation (FEDEFUT), Eduardo Li. A press release is here.

Mr Li is accused by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) of taking bribes in connection with the sale of marketing rights for World Cup 2018 qualifying games.

In its ruling, the FOJ found that the conditions for Mr Li’s extradition had been fulfilled. In particular, the principle of dual criminality was satisfied. By allegedly accepting bribes for the award of sports marketing contracts, Mr Li: “massively influenced the competitive situation and distorted the market for media rights in connection with the World Cup qualifying matches.” This placed other sports marketing companies at a disadvantage.

Furthermore, “among other things, FEDEFUT was prevented from negotiating marketing agreements which might have been more favourable”. In Switzerland, such conduct constitutes unfair practices under the Federal Law on Unfair Competition.

Mr Li has 30 days in which to appeal the decision, and was granted five days in which to notify the FOJ of his intention to do so. To date, there has been no official confirmation that Mr Li has, indeed, notified the FOJ of such any such appeal.

Rafael Esquivel Bail Denied

On 6 October, it was reported that Rafael Esquivel, Vice President of The South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL), has been denied bail on health grounds in Switzerland. Mr Esquivel is currently in hospital in Switzerland. A report is here.

According to the FOJ, Mr Esquivel is appealing against the decision last month by the Swiss Federal Department of Justice to grant a US extradition request. In an earlier statement by the Federal Criminal Court of Switzerland, which did not name Mr Esquivel, it was stated that bail was sought because of his “advanced age and poor state of health.” That was “not regarded as sufficient to counter the risk of absconding,” the Court said.

The Court also found that he was “more than capable of traveling,” has no close ties to Switzerland and electronic monitoring would not reduce his flight risk. Further medical tests are being undertaken.

Costas Takkas Extradition Approved

On 9 October 2015, the Swiss Federal Office of Justice approved the extradition of Costas Takkas to the US, the fourth such approval of an official in the FIFA investigation. The FOJ press release is here.

Mr Takkas is the former Secretary-General of the Cayman Islands Football Association (CIFA) and attaché to the President of the Confederation of North and Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF).

Mr Takkas is accused of demanding and accepting bribes of millions of dollars for the President of CONCAAF, in connection with the sale of marketing rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup qualifiers, to a US sports marketing company.

The FOJ concluded that the conditions for extradition are fulfilled. In particular, dual criminality was satisfied on the basis that Mr Takkas accepted bribes for the award of sports marketing contracts, massively influencing the competitive situation and distorting the market for media rights. This would constitute an offence in Switzerland, in the form of unfair practices, under the Federal Act on Unfair Competition.

Again, Mr Takkas has 30 days in which to appeal to the Federal Criminal Court and five days in which to notify the FOJ of his intention to do so. There has been no confirmation of such an appeal being made, to date.

Julio Rocha Extradition Approved

On 15 October 2015, the FOJ approved the extradition of Julio Rocha, to the US from Switzerland. The formal US extradition request was submitted on 1 July 2015 and is based on an arrest warrant, issued on 20 May 2015, by the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.

Mr Rocha is accused of demanding and taking bribes of $150,000 for himself and another football official in connection with the sale of marketing rights to FENIFUT’s World Cup 2018 qualifiers to a US sports marketing company.

The conditions for extradition were met: the facts set out in the US extradition request are also punishable under Swiss law through the principle of dual criminality.

Of particular note, the FOJ determined that Mr Rocha would be extradited first to the US, while simultaneously approving his subsequent extradition to Nicaragua. This followed an extradition request by Nicaragua, issued on 10 August 2015, the offences being largely identical to those listed in the US request. Mr Rocha agreed to his extradition to Nicaragua, which the FOJ then approved on 14 August 2015, under a simplified procedure. This was subject to a resolution of priority between the Nicaraguan and US requests.

The FOJ held that the key point in this decision was the fact that the US authorities have been conducting wide-ranging criminal proceedings against a number of individuals for some time. These individuals are already in the US, or are to be extradited to the US.  Further, the FOJ found that most of the evidence and witnesses are also located in the US.

By contrast, the Nicaraguan authorities only commenced criminal proceedings in response to charges brought on 10 June 2015. These charges are made against a single individual, and thus, unlike the US proceedings, according to the FOJ, “did not permit an overall evaluation of the facts at hand”.

Previous blogs on the FIFA investigation are available here.

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