Football: More top Fifa officials arrested in corruption investigation, reports say

A file picture taken on May 27, 2015, shows a general view of the Hotel Baur au Lac where Swiss authorities conducted an early-morning operation arresting several top football officials.
A file picture taken on May 27, 2015, shows a general view of the Hotel Baur au Lac where Swiss authorities conducted an early-morning operation arresting several top football officials. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (GUARDIAN) - More than 12 Fifa officials have been arrested as part of a long-running corruption investigation led by the United States, according to reports in the New York Times.

At least some of the arrests were made at the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich, the same location in which a group of Fifa representatives were arrested on May on corruption charges.

According to the paper's European sports correspondent, Sam Borden, Concacaf president Alfredo Hawit of Honduras is among those held. Hawit was appointed interim head of Concacaf after Jeffrey Webb was arrested in May. Juan Ángel Napout, president of Conmebol, was also reportedly among those arrested at the Baur au Lac.

Concacaf and Conmebol are two of Fifa's six continental governing bodies, the former responsible for North America, Central America and the Caribbean, the latter for South America. Both Hawit and Napout also hold the title of vice-president of Fifa.

US Department of Justice officials were expected to appear at a news conference in Washington on Thursday to discuss the case, people familiar with the plans said.

Fifa said in a statement that it was aware of the actions taken by the US, and would continue to cooperate with the investigation.

In September, US attorney general Loretta Lynch said she expected more arrests to be made, telling a press conference: "We do anticipate pursuing additional charges against individuals and entities."

Zurich police said they took action at the request of Swiss federal justice authorities.

Fifa's leaders were gathering in Zurich to discuss governance reforms before a congress in February at which suspended president Sepp Blatter is expected to be replaced.

Blatter was suspended for 90 days in early October by Fifa's ethics committee alongside Jérôme Valcke, his right-hand man, and Michel Platini, one candidate hoping to replace him as president. The suspension would theoretically mean the trio could return five days before February's extraordinary congress.

However, last week Fifa's ethics committee announced that it was recommending life bans for both Blatter and Platini over an allegation that a 2011 payment of £1.35m (S$2.84m) to Platini was corrupt. Both have denied any wrongdoing, and a final decision is expected to be made later in the month by German judge Hans-Joachim Eckert following a personal hearing.

In September, Swiss authorities opened proceedings against Blatter "on suspicion of criminal mismanagement" in a parallel investigation to the US-run inquiry. Neither Blatter nor Valcke are believed to be among those arrested on Thursday morning.

The Swiss inquiry initially focused on the process that led to the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively, but has since broadened to include alleged money laundering and fraud.

On Wednesday, Fifa announced a $141m financial loss, its first since 2001, after a year of sponsorship losses and heavy legal bills. On Tuesday, five major sponsors - Adidas, McDonald's, Coca-Cola, Visa and Anheuser-Busch - had written to Fifa demanding independent oversight of the reform process.