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Swiss officials: No special treatment for soccer officials

Swiss officials: No special treatment for soccer officials sought by US in FIFA probe

Swiss officials: No special treatment for soccer officials

BERN, Switzerland (AP) -- The immediate price that seven international soccer officials paid for their role in a U.S. corruption probe is perhaps best illustrated by their sudden change of accommodation.

On Tuesday night they were staying at one of Switzerland's finest hotels, where top suites can cost more than $4,000 a night and a 2-ounce dollop of caviar will set you back almost $400. By Wednesday morning the men, who had come to Switzerland to attend the annual meeting of soccer's governing body FIFA, found themselves in less salubrious accommodation -- prison cells around Zurich where the $16 daily budget for food gets inmates a daily portion of meat, a "filler" such as rice, and occasional vegetables and sometimes a tin of fruit.

The dawn arrests of some of soccer's most powerful figures were the result of an extradition request sent to Switzerland by the United States, where the men are among 14 sought on racketeering and other charges spanning more than two decades.

Swiss justice officials interviewed by The Associated Press said the suspects can't expect any special treatment while they await a decision on whether they will be handed over to the U.S.

"It's a rude awakening," said Folco Galli, spokesman for the Swiss Federal Office of Justice in Bern. "They have no privileges and they won't be allowed to get takeout deliveries from the hotel."

The seven are FIFA vice presidents Jeffrey Webb of the Cayman Islands and Eugenio Figueredo of Uruguay; Costa Rican soccer federation president Eduardo Li; Venezuela FA chief Rafael Esquivel; former Brazilian FA chief Jose Maria Marin; Costas Takkas, a Briton who works for CONCACAF President Webb; and FIFA development officer Julio Rocha of Nicaragua.

Used to the jet-set world of international soccer, the men will now spend up to 23 hours a day in their cells for the coming months. Inmates in Switzerland are allowed an hour of exercise each day, said Rebecca de Silva, a spokeswoman for the state of Zurich's prisons authority.

One way to get some more time outside their cells is prison labor, she told the AP.

"Many inmates consider work, if available, a pleasant change," she said.

To avoid collusion they are forbidden to use the Internet or phones, and the only visitors they can see are their lawyers and spouses.

The men can appeal against their incarceration within 10 days -- until June 8. The chances of being allowed out on bail are extremely slim, however.

"Release on bail is possible, but it's very, very rare. The law says that the person has to stay in detention for the duration of the extradition procedure," said Galli. "If we let someone out, and they make a run for it, then Switzerland risks breaching its treaty obligations."

One rare instance where a suspect wanted for extradition was allowed to leave prison on bail was that of film director Roman Polanski. After being detained in 2009 in Zurich on decades-old sex charges in the U.S., Polanski was eventually allowed to stay under house arrest at his holiday home in the Swiss Alpine resort of Gstaad.

For the soccer officials the next major deadline will probably be July 3 -- the 40-day time limit within which the United States has to submit a formal extradition request.

"The case against them needs to be laid out in detail," said Galli. "The main condition is that the alleged crime that happened in the United States has to be punishable if it had happened in Switzerland."

Galli stressed that Swiss authorities won't be deciding whether a person is guilty of any crime -- that will be up to the U.S. courts.

He declined to say if the U.S. has made further extradition requests to Switzerland.

While it's unusual for Switzerland to deny an extradition request -- experts say nine out of 10 are granted -- it did happen in the high-profile case of Polanski. Swiss authorities ruled that the U.S. had made technical mistakes in their request and allowed Polanski to leave the country 10 months after his arrest.

Galli said the extradition process usually takes six months, including appeals to Switzerland's supreme court, but some have lasted over a year.

The easiest way for suspects to shorten the process is by agreeing to extradition, in which case they can be handed over to U.S. authorities and put on a trans-Atlantic flight within days.

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Contact Frank Jordans on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/wirereporter


Updated : 2021-09-20 17:26 GMT+08:00