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Football Switzerland sends last of FIFA suspects to US

Julio Rocha Lopez, the former head of the Nicaraguan football federation, leaves a hearing at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, New York on May 18, 2016

(Keystone)

Switzerland has extradited former FIFA staff member Julio Rocha to the United States to face racketeering charges as part of an ongoing bribery case. All nine FIFA officials who were arrested last year in Zurich have now been extradited.

The former head of the Nicaraguan football federation, who recently worked for the world governing body FIFA, pleaded not guilty to racketeering charges on Wednesday in New York. Earlier in the day, two US police officers took charge of him in Zurich and accompanied him on a flight to the US.

Rocha, 65, was extradited after a raid last May in Zurich exposed what officials described as a sprawling bribery scheme that had infested the governing body of international football.

Most of the FIFA officials arrested in Zurich on May 27 and later on December 3, 2015 agreed to their extradition to the US (Jeffrey Webb, José Maria Marin, Juan Angel Napout and Alfredo Hawit) or to Uruguay (Eugenio Figueredo).

Eduardo Li accepted the extradition ruling issued by the Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) by withdrawing his appeal. In three cases (Rafael Esquivel, Costas Takkas and Julio Rocha), the Federal Criminal Court upheld the FOJ rulings in full.

Rocha's final appeal against a US extradition request was rejected by Switzerland's Federal Court on May 9.

Rocha was the longtime Nicaraguan football federation president before leaving in 2012. That was when FIFA hired him as a Panama-based development officer for Central America.

$100,000 bribe

A Brooklyn indictment said Rocha received a $100,000 bribe from sports marketing company Traffic linked to the sale of marketing rights for Nicaragua's qualifying matches for the 2018 World Cup.

The indictment alleged $150,000 was wired in May 2011 from a bank in Miami to an account in Rocha's name at a bank in Madrid, Spain. He kept $100,000 and gave $50,000 to another sports official who was not identified, authorities alleged.

Rocha is among more than 40 football and marketing officials and marketing agencies to have been indicted or to have pleaded guilty in the US since charges were unsealed in May 2015.

Although extradition proceedings in the FIFA case have now been concluded, the legal assistance proceedings are still ongoing, the FOJ said in a statement on Wednesday. Further to US requests, the FOJ has had an extensive body of banking records obtained for the US authorities, it said.

It has handed banking records over to the US authorities on a continuous basis since the end of December 2015.

The FOJ has also frozen $80 million in 13 bank accounts. These assets will remain frozen until the legal assistance proceedings have been concluded. In a second step, once they have a final and absolute confiscation order from a US court, the US authorities can apply to have these assets transferred to the US. 

swissinfo.ch with agencies

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