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6 Top World Soccer Officials Arrested In Switzerland On U.S. Corruption Charges

FIFA President Sepp Blatter kicks a ball during the inauguration of a football stadium in the village of Dura al-Qari near the West Bank city of Ramallah last week.
Majdi Mohammed AP
FIFA President Sepp Blatter kicks a ball during the inauguration of a football stadium in the village of Dura al-Qari near the West Bank city of Ramallah last week.

Six soccer officials with FIFA, the sport's international governing body, were arrested early this morning by Zurich police in the Baur au Lac, the luxury hotel on Lake Zurich where they were staying.

The Swiss Department of Justice and Police said in a statement that the arrests were made at the request of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York. According to the statement, the U.S. alleges the officials accepted bribes and kickbacks from the mid-1990s to the present day.

The U.S. Attorney's charges were first reported by The New York Times.

The officials are in Zurich for the FIFA Congress which is scheduled to elect FIFA's president on Friday. Longtime incumbent Sepp Blatter of Switzerland is being challenged by Jordan's Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein.

The U.S. is requesting the extradition of the six officials to face trial in the United States. Swiss authorities said the detainees will be questioned today and have the right to contest their extradition.

According to the Swiss Federal Department of Justice and Police, the U.S. says others are accused of bribing the officials:

"The bribery suspects – representatives of sports media and sports promotion firms – are alleged to have been involved in schemes to make payments to the soccer functionaries – delegates of FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) and other functionaries of FIFA sub-organizations – totaling more than USD 100 million. In return, it is believed that they received media, marketing, and sponsorship rights in connection with soccer tournaments in Latin America. According to the US request, these crimes were agreed and prepared in the US, and payments were carried out via US banks."

FIFA governs the world's most popular sport. The multi-billion dollar organization has been accused of bribery and corruption for decades.

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