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Fifa's Webb said to agree to extradition to court in Brooklyn
[NEWARK] Jeffrey Webb, one of seven soccer officials arrested in Zurich in May, has agreed to be extradited and face corruption charges in the US, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Webb, a suspended vice-president with the sport's global governing body Fifa, is expected to appear within several days in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, according to the person, who requested anonymity because the matter isn't public.
Webb, the former president of the Central and North American soccer federation known as Concacaf, was among nine Fifa officials and five corporate executives charged in a racketeering and fraud indictment. He would be the first of those arrested on May 27 in Switzerland to face a US judge. The US is seeking extradition of the other six.
Switzerland's Federal Office of Justice said the suspect agreed during a hearing Thursday to be extradited, adding "the person didn't wish to be named at the moment," according to a statement Friday. The FOJ approved his extradition "immediately in a simplified process," and he will be handed over to US authorities within 10 days.
Webb's attorney, Edward O'Callaghan, declined to comment by e-mail. Raphael Frei, a spokesman for the Federal Office of Justice, did not immediately return messages seeking confirmation of the extradited Fifa official's name.
A burly 50-year-old from the Cayman Islands, Webb took over the scandal-plagued Concacaf in 2012.
A former Cayman Islands banker and member of Fifa's internal audit committee, he had become a favourite of Joseph "Sepp" Blatter, Fifa's outgoing president. Blatter suggested before the indictment that Webb would be his ideal successor.
The FOJ's description of the US accusations match those against Webb.
That includes "accepting bribes totaling millions of dollars in connection with the sale of marketing rights to various sports marketing firms and keeping the money for himself," the FOJ said in the statement.
"The marketing rights in question pertain to the broadcast of qualifying matches for the soccer World Cup, regional soccer tournaments and continental soccer championships in North and South America," according to the statement.
Several people are cooperating with US investigators, including Charles Blazer, 70, Concacaf's former general secretary, who pleaded guilty. Eugenio Figueredo, another former Fifa vice-president arrested in the raid, had a request to be released under house arrest rejected, according to his lawyer.
Figueredo, a Uruguayan, had cited ill health among the reasons to be freed from Swiss prison, said his Montevideo-based attorney, Gustavo Bordes. Bordes said there will be another hearing next week. Figueredo will continue to oppose extradition, Bordes said.
Consenting to waive extradition is a "red flag" that a defendant is "at least trying to cooperate," said Lawrence Schoenbach, a New York lawyer with offices in Zurich, Paris and the Virgin Islands who specialises in such cases. Formal cooperation agreements are generally not struck until defendants are on US soil, he said.
"The government has a policy of never negotiating with a defendant until the defendant gets here," he said. "It's not usual for a defendant to become a cooperating witness while still out of the country." Webb's fall is perhaps the most dramatic of all the officials nabbed in the dawn raids at the luxury hotel that housed Fifa's top executives.
Since being plucked from relative obscurity to take charge of Concacaf when his predecessor Jack Warner suddenly quit following a previous corruption scandal, Webb promoted himself as a leader committed to transparency and better management.
The soccer scandal isn't Webb's only legal concern. This month he and another former Fifa official, Canover Watson, were named as the "controllers and beneficiaries" of a company that is at the center of a corruption probe into contracts granted by a public hospital in the Cayman Islands.
As recently as April, Webb gave a glowing self-assessment at the annual meeting of Concacaf chiefs. Under his leadership, Webb said, the regional group had become a "case study" in rooting out corruption.
"We have created a culture of transparency and accountability within our confederation," he told delegates.
Nellin McIntosh, a spokesman for the US Attorney's office in Brooklyn, declined to comment on the extradition proceedings.