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More FIFA bigwigs arrested in Switzerland: report

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Updated: Thursday, December 3, 2015, 8:18 AM

FIFA officials are being arrested again, according to a report, but names have not yet been released.STEFFEN SCHMIDT/EPA

The U.S. government’s crackdown on FIFA corruption continued Thursday when Swiss police in Zurich arrested at least two more officials of soccer’s international governing body on charges issued from the federal courthouse in Brooklyn.

Alfredo Hawit of Honduras and Juan Angel Napout of Paraguay were each collared Thursday morning in Zurich, Swiss authorities confirmed. They remain in custody following hearings where they opposed their extradition to the United States.

It’s unclear how many other officials could be arrested Thursday, as top FIFA executives convened for long-planned meetings at the troubled organization’s headquarters in Zurich.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch is scheduled to hold a press conference Thursday afternoon in Washington where she is expected to outline the charges against the two men. Their arrests bring the number of defendants in the sprawling case to 20 — including four guilty pleas and nearly a dozen men who have yet to enter a plea.

As of Thursday, Hawit and Napout were the leaders of CONCACAF and CONMEBOL, respectively, the two troubled FIFA-affiliated confederations governing soccer in the western hemisphere. Both organizations have been gutted by arrests and raids following an investigation by the FBI and IRS into the murky business of soccer’s power brokers.

The arrests came six months after the government’s case burst into public view with the arrests of 14 FIFA officials and sports marketing executives, along with the unveiling of guilty pleas from several key cooperating witnesses, including American FIFA insider Chuck Blazer (a former CONCACAF secretary general) and Brazil’s Jose Hawilla, who oversaw a sports marketing empire called the Traffic Group.

Among those arrested in May was former CONCACAF president Jack Warner, who on Wednesday secured a delay of a scheduled hearing on his extradition to the U.S. to face 29 charges involving bribery and kickbacks.

The New York Times reported that Swiss authorities were making as many as a dozen arrests — but specifically not nabbing its suspended president Sepp Blatter, who was re-elected in May but has since been banned from involvement in the sport while Swiss law enforcement investigates him.

Hawit and Napout were taken into custody at the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich, the same five-star establishment authorities raided in May. They and other FIFA leaders had arrived in Zurich this week to consider reform measures following the revelation of widespread corruption, which appears to have impacted the distribution of lucrative television and marketing contracts as well as votes for the location of tournaments, including the World Cup.


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