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Football scandal Costa Rica football chief extradited to US

Costa Rican Football Federation President Eduardo Li was arrested by Swiss police in May in Zurich as part of a US corruption investigation

(Keystone)

The former head of the Costa Rican Football Federation (FEDEFUT), Eduardo Li, was extradited from Switzerland to the United States on Friday to face corruption charges. Switzerland has also authorised the extradition of another football official, Eugenio Figueredo, to Uruguay. 

Li was handed over to two US police officers in Zurich, who accompanied him on the flight to New York, the Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) said in a statement. 

Li was arrested in Zurich on May 27, 2015, along with other football officials following a US request. The Federal Office of Justice was able to organise his extradition after Li withdrew his appeal on December 11. 

Figueredo to Uruguay

The office also announced on Friday that it had authorised the extradition of Eugenio Figueredo, former vice-president of the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) and former vice-president of FIFA, to Uruguay instead of the US to face trial on corruption charges. 

Figueredo was also arrested in Zurich on May 27, 2015 on the basis of a US arrest request. On September 17, the FOJ ordered his extradition to the US but he appealed. On November 9, Figueredo agreed be extradited to Uruguay where he is also alleged to have abused his office for personal gain.

CONMEBOL, an influential grouping that includes traditional football powers such as Brazil and Argentina, is heavily involved in a corruption probe led by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation. 

Of 14 football officials and sports marketing executives indicted in the US in May on bribery, money laundering and wire fraud charges involving more than $150 million (CHF149 million) in payments, eight were from South America.

They included two former CONMEBOL presidents, Figueredo and Nicolas Leoz, plus the Venezuelan federation president Rafael Esquivel, the former head of the Brazilian confederation and three Argentine and one Brazilian executives.

Why Uruguay?

The Federal Office of Justice said Figueredo would be extradited to Uruguay rather than the US, because criminal investigations in Uruguay into irregularities in connection with the award of marketing rights had been ongoing for several years now. However, they cover more football tournaments than the US investigations.

It said Uruguay would also be able to prosecute Figueredo on suspicion of having acquired US citizenship fraudulently. This would be conducted at the request of the US authorities. This means that Figueredo could be tried in Uruguay for all of the offences of which he is accused. In the US, the prosecution would cover only a portion of the charges.

In May seven high-ranking FIFA officials were arrested at a Zurich luxury hotel by Swiss police as part of a US corruption investigation. Jeffrey Webb and José Maria Marin both agreed to simplified extradition proceedings and were transferred to the US in July and earlier in November.

With Figueredo and Li now agreeing to be extradited to Uruguay and the US, there remain three officials - Julio Rocha, Costas Takkas and Rafael Esquivel who have opposed their extraditions and have appeals pending with the Federal Criminal Court.

swissinfo.ch with agencies

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