FIFA last night suspended its Secretary-General Jérôme Valcke from duties amid allegations of a ticket selling scandal. The news came hours after the Swiss authorities approved the extradition of former FIFA official, Eugenio Figueredo, to the United States on corruption charges.
The double blow adds pressure to the world governing body of football that is currently in the focus of criminal investigations in Switzerland and the US.
Valcke, the second most powerful executive in FIFA and number two to President Sepp Blatter, was put on leave and is now subject to an internal investigation by FIFA’s ethics committee.
He denies allegations that he engineered a marketing contract to sell tickets at the 2014 World Cup at inflated prices and that he stood to personally gain financially from the deal.
“FIFA [on Thursday] announced that its Secretary General Jérôme Valcke has been put on leave and released from his duties effective immediately until further notice,” FIFA said in a press release. “Further, FIFA has been made aware of a series of allegations involving the Secretary General and has requested a formal investigation by the FIFA Ethics Committee.”
Valcke, who has been FIFA Secretary-General since 2007, had previously been at the centre of other corruption allegations by the media. He has never been found guilty of any wrongdoing.
Earlier on Thursday, Switzerland approved a US extradition request for Uruguayan football official Figueredo who was arrested in Zurich in May.
The 83-year old, who served recently as a FIFA vice-president and as vice-president of South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL), has 30 days to appeal to the Swiss Federal Criminal Court against the ministry’s ruling.
Last month, Jeffrey Webb, another former FIFA vice-president, was extradited from Switzerland, after agreeing to face charges that are part of a massive investigation into graft at the world football body.
A statement by the justice ministry explained that “Figueredo is accused of receiving bribes worth millions of dollars from a Uruguayan sports marketing company in connection with the sale of marketing rights to the Copa América tournaments in 2015, 2016, 2019 and 2023.”
The ministry also said that Figueredo had allegedly acquired US citizenship fraudulently after submitting falsified medical reports in 2005 and 2006.
According to the ministry's statementexternal link, “The facts laid down in the US extradition request are also punishable under Swiss law (the principle of dual criminality).” It explained that by accepting bribes linked to the awarding of sports marketing contracts, which “influenced the competitive situation”, Figueredo had performed what are considered “unfair practices” by federal law. Similarly, the official’s use of forged medical reports to acquire citizenship would also be punishable under the Swiss criminal code.
The US indictment stated that Figueredo falsely claimed in his application for US naturalisation that he suffered from dementia in order to exempt himself from required English language and civics exams.
US authorities submitted a formal extradition request to the justice ministry on July 1, based on an arrest warrant issued in May, shortly before Figueredo and six other FIFA officials were arrested at a luxury hotel in Zurich.
The five other FIFA officials remaining in Swiss custody are Brazilian football federation head Jose Maria Marin, Costas Takkas, who worked for the Cayman Islands federation, Rafael Esquivel, Venezuela’s football federation president, Eduardo Li, former president of Costa Rica’s football federation and Julio Rocha, head of Nicaragua’s football federation. Rocha has agreed to be extradited to his home country.
Earlier this week in Zurich, US Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who leads the American probe into FIFA, said that more arrests can be expected in the widening investigation. Lynch was in the Swiss city for an international prosecutors’ conference.
swissinfo.ch and agencies