Swiss authorities began a new series of pre-dawn arrests in the broad investigation, led by United States officials, into corruption in international soccer. More than a dozen people were expected to be charged, law enforcement officials said, nearly doubling the size of an already huge case that has upended FIFA, soccer’s multibillion-dollar governing body.
Some of the arrests took place at the same luxury hotel where other FIFA officials were arrested in May. Swiss police entered the hotel, the Baur au Lac, through a side door at 6 a.m. local time. A hotel manager told visitors in the lobby they had to leave the property because of “an extreme situation.” The police were targeting current and former senior soccer officials on charges that include racketeering, money laundering and fraud, authorities said. The new charges were expected to hit South and Central American soccer leaders particularly hard, the officials said. The Justice Department confirmed in a news release that Alfredo Hawit of Honduras and Juan Ángel Napout of Paraguay were among those charged. Hawit is the president of Concacaf, the regional confederation that includes North and Central America and the Caribbean. Napout is the president of Conmebol, the South American confederation. Both are FIFA vice presidents and members of the powerful executive committee.
In announcing plans for a news conference by Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch and other law enforcement officials, the Justice Department mentioned only Mr. Hawit and Mr. Napout. But law enforcement officials said that, by day’s end, more than a dozen people were expected to be charged and publicly identified. Mr. Hawit assumed control of Concacaf last spring, following the indictment of Jeffrey Webb, the confederation’s former president. Mr. Napout’s two predecessors at Conmebol president also were indicted in May.
The arrests, coming as FIFA’s leaders gathered in Zurich, served as a high-profile reminder that despite the organization’s promises of reform, soccer’s top officials remain under intense legal scrutiny by the investigation. “FIFA became aware of the actions taken today by the U.S. Department of Justice,” FIFA said in a statement. “FIFA will continue to cooperate fully with the U.S. investigation as permitted by Swiss law, as well as with the investigation being led by the Swiss Office of the Attorney General.”
The full roster of people charged morning was not immediately clear. Law enforcement officials said the list did not include Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s longtime president, or Jérôme Valcke, his suspended deputy. Swiss authorities confirmed that they had taken two FIFA officials into custody and that those individuals were accused of accepting millions of dollars in bribes related to the sale of marketing rights for World Cup qualifying matches and soccer tournaments in Latin America. Switzerland’s Federal Office of Justice later confirmed that the officials were Mr. Hawit and Mr. Napout, and that both men were contesting their possible extradition to the United States. Because they are, Switzerland will ask the United States to submit formal extradition requests; the Americans have 40 days to complete those requests.