Ex-Venezuelan soccer boss to be extradited to U.S.


FILE - In this Nov. 8, 2004 file photo Sepp Blatter, President of the FIFA, left, shakes hands with the President of the Venezuelan Soccer Federation, Rafael Esquivel, in Caracas, Venezuela. (Leslie Mazoch/AP)

ZURICH — The former president of Venezuela’s soccer federation has agreed to be extradited from Switzerland to the United States to face corruption charges, a Swiss justice official said Friday.

Rafael Esquivel was arrested in Zurich in May as part of a U.S. investigation into alleged corruption among senior figures in world football and FIFA, the sport’s top governing body.

A spokesman for the Swiss Federal Office of Justice said it was informed by Esquivel on Friday that the Venezuelan had withdrawn his final appeal against extradition, which was pending before Switzerland’s highest court.

"This enabled the Federal Office of Justice to approve his extradition to the U.S.A. the same day," Folco Galli told The Associated Press.

"Esquivel must be placed in the custody of a U.S. police escort and taken to the U.S.A. within 10 days," he added. Galli said the precise day and time of his extradition wouldn’t be announced for reasons of privacy and security.

Esquivel had gone to the Federal Tribunal in Lausanne to overturn a lower court’s ruling approving his extradition on Jan. 27. News of his decision to drop the appeal came as delegates from FIFA’s 209 members were voting in Zurich for a new president to replace their longtime leader Sepp Blatter, as well as a package of reforms designed to tackle corruption in the organization.

U.S. authorities accuse Esquivel of receiving bribes worth millions of dollars in connection with the sale of marketing rights to the Copa America tournaments in 2007, 2015, 2016, 2019 and 2023.

Esquivel, a former vice-president of South America’s CONMEBOL federation, was among nine ex-football officials arrested in two separate raids in Zurich last year and would be the sixth to be extradited to the United States. A seventh man was sent to his native Uruguay, while two others — ex-FIFA staffer Julio Rocha of Nicaragua and Briton Costas Takkas, a former aide to the president of the North and Central American federation CONCACAF — are still appealing extradition in Swiss courts.

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