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[ZURICH] Swiss authorities arrested two Fifa executives Thursday as part of a US-led corruption probe of international soccer's governing body.
The unidentified "high-ranking" officials were taken into custody during early morning raids at their hotel, and 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 Thursday in an e-mailed statement. The executives, who were arrested at Hotel Baur au Lac, will be named later in the day after hearings, the agency said.
"Fifa became aware of the actions taken today by the US Department of Justice," the organisation said in an e-mailed statement. "Fifa 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. Fifa will have no further comment on today's developments." Blatter, who has overseen Fifa for nearly two decades and Michel Platini, Fifa's European head, were suspended in October from all soccer activities after Swiss prosecutors opened an investigation into a delayed 2 million-Swiss franc (S$2.76 million) payment from Blatter to Platini. The move essentially ended Blatter's 17-year presidency and delivered a blow to Platini's chances in the Feb 26 elections for Fifa president.
The New York Times reported the arrests Thursday morning. A spokesman for Switzerland's Attorney General declined to comment and referred questions to the Federal Office of Justice, which handles requests for extradition and other judicial assistance from foreign bodies including the US Department of Justice. A spokesman for the Federal Office of Justice didn't immediately return calls and messages seeking comment.
The Zurich police wouldn't confirm any arrests. Police spokesman Stefan Oberlin said only that "various police measures" have been taken related to the Fifa case.