By Dr Thilo Pachmann*
Last month, a few days before the FIFA Congress, the world witnessed how the Swiss authorities were able to arrest seven highly ranked FIFA Officials, following a request by the US Department of Justice for allegedly accepting past bribes.
According to the Extradition Treaty between Switzerland and the USA, one of the reasons by which a person may be extradited is that the alleged crime would be punishable under the same circumstances under Swiss law.
With that in mind, the Swiss Federal Council had stated in its side letter in 2004, when criminal sanctions for bribing private persons were introduced into the Act against Unfair Competition, that it is primarily the task of the sports federations to monitor the legality of their internal elections and voting mechanisms. The legislator, therefore, intentionally refused to include sports federations’ officials into the criminal sanctions against private persons for taking bribes.
In the light of this, it is questionable whether the FIFA Officials concerned will be extradited to the USA.
The USA will need to show why the behaviour of the FIFA Officials would also have been punishable in Switzerland, for example as a criminal sanction for acting against the interests of a company (‘ungetreue Geschäftsbesorgung’).
If this cannot be shown, the FIFA Officials will have good chances legally to fight against their extradition to the USA.
*Attorney at Law, Pachmann Lawyers, Zurich, Switzerland
Since writing this post, it is reported that one of the FIFA officials arrested in Zurich last month, Jeffrey Webb, a former Vice President of FIFA and President of CONCACAF, has agreed to be extradited to the US to face corruption charges, in order to clear his name. He is expected to appear before a Court in Brooklyn within the next ten days.