Two Fifa V-Ps held in Zurich in widening graft probe

A person hiding behind a folder in a police car near the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich yesterday, the scene of the dawn raids. Fifa said it will continue to cooperate fully with investigations after police arrested its officials - Juan Angel Napout (be
A person hiding behind a folder in a police car near the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich yesterday, the scene of the dawn raids. Fifa said it will continue to cooperate fully with investigations after police arrested its officials - Juan Angel Napout of Paraguay, the head of Conmebol; and Alfredo Hawit of Honduras, the acting president of Concacaf. The arrests are the latest by the US Department of Justice and Switzerland's Attorney-General as they crack down on corruption in the world's most popular sport.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
A person hiding behind a folder in a police car near the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich yesterday, the scene of the dawn raids. Fifa said it will continue to cooperate fully with investigations after police arrested its officials - Juan Angel Napout (be
A person hiding behind a folder in a police car near the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich yesterday, the scene of the dawn raids. Fifa said it will continue to cooperate fully with investigations after police arrested its officials - Juan Angel Napout (above) of Paraguay, the head of Conmebol; and Alfredo Hawit of Honduras, the acting president of Concacaf. The arrests are the latest by the US Department of Justice and Switzerland's Attorney-General as they crack down on corruption in the world's most popular sport.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
A person hiding behind a folder in a police car near the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich yesterday, the scene of the dawn raids. Fifa said it will continue to cooperate fully with investigations after police arrested its officials - Juan Angel Napout (be
A person hiding behind a folder in a police car near the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich yesterday, the scene of the dawn raids. Fifa said it will continue to cooperate fully with investigations after police arrested its officials - Juan Angel Napout of Paraguay, the head of Conmebol; and Alfredo Hawit (above) of Honduras, the acting president of Concacaf. The arrests are the latest by the US Department of Justice and Switzerland's Attorney-General as they crack down on corruption in the world's most popular sport.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

They are accused of taking bribes in return for selling marketing rights linked to football tournaments

ZURICH • The Swiss authorities arrested two Fifa vice-presidents in their Zurich hotel at dawn yesterday, repeating tactics used six months earlier, as a United States- led corruption probe of football's world body widens.

The New York Times identified the targets as Alfredo Hawit of Honduras, acting president of Concacaf, and Juan Angel Napout of Paraguay, the head of Conmebol.

Concacaf administers football in North and Central America and the Caribbean, while Conmebol handles South America.

The suspects are alleged to have taken bribes "in return for selling marketing rights in connection with football tournaments in Latin America, as well as World Cup qualifying matches", the Swiss Federal Office of Justice said in a statement.

The Swiss authorities added that yesterday's arrests were related to alleged offences agreed and prepared in the US, and involved payments processed by US banks. The names of banks involved were not released.

The arrests are the latest by the US Department of Justice and Switzerland's Attorney-General as they crack down on corruption in the world's most popular sport.

The Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich - also the scene of dawn raids in May triggered by US indictments - closed its gates after a group of four people, believed to be plain-clothes police, went in at about 6am, a witness said.

Another group of police then went in through the rear entrance and left half an hour later. Shortly afterwards, two cars with tinted windows were seen leaving the hotel.

Fifa officials routinely use the luxury lakeside hotel. Many are in Zurich for an executive committee meeting at which an internal Fifa reforms committee is to present its recommendations.

Fifa said it "will continue to cooperate fully with the US investigation as permitted by Swiss law, as well as with the investigation being led by the Swiss Office of the Attorney-General".

The authorities have said for months that they expected to issue a second wave of corruption charges in football, following US charges in May against 14 officials and sports marketing executives for racketeering and bribery.

Prosecutors accused US and South American sports marketing executives of paying more than US$150 million (S$212 million) in bribes and kickbacks for media and marketing rights to football tournaments.

The past two Concacaf heads before Hawit have been indicted by the US authorities.

Hawit and Napout, their representatives and their federations were not immediately available for comment. Both opposed their extradition to the US yesterday.

"While we are profoundly disappointed by the allegations made by the authorities that again, Concacaf has been the victim of fraud, we remain committed to Concacaf's goal to develop, promote and manage the game of soccer," Hawit had said when he took charge of the confederation in May.

The arrests were the latest in a series of actions targeting Fifa's senior leadership. The body's long- time president, Sepp Blatter, 79, the subject of a criminal probe in Switzerland, has been suspended for 90 days. He faces tougher punishment by Fifa's internal ethics watchdog.

The man who had been tipped to succeed him at a special election in February, European football chief Michel Platini, has also been suspended and could be hit with a lifetime ban from football by the end of the month.

BLOOMBERG, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 04, 2015, with the headline 'Two Fifa V-Ps held in Zurich in widening graft probe'. Print Edition | Subscribe