Six football officials were arrested in Zurich early Wednesday upon request from US authorities, suspected of receiving bribes worth millions of dollars, Swiss authorities said. The New York Times reported that FIFA officials were arrested.
"The bribery suspects - representatives of sports media and sports promotion firms - are alleged to have been involved in schemes to make payments to the soccer functionaries - delegates of FIFA ... and other functionaries of FIFA sub-organisations - totalling more than $100 million," the Swiss justice ministry said in a statement.
"In return, it is believed that they received media, marketing, and sponsorship rights in connection with soccer tournaments in Latin America," it added. The justice ministry said the six officials were arrested upon request from US authorities 'on suspicion of the acceptance of bribes and kick-backs between the early 1990s and the present day,' and that they were being held pending extradition.
"According to the US request, these crimes were agreed and prepared in the US, and payments were carried out via US banks," the statement said. Regional Zurich police carried out the arrests at a posh Zurich hotel. A FIFA spokesman said Wednesday international football's top body was seeking to clarify the situation, and would not comment on the arrests.
The charges are a major challenge for FIFA that comes as its head Sepp Blatter looks to secure a fifth term in a Friday vote. Blatter, a powerful figure in sports, is not a target of the US case, The New York Times reported. In May, Blatter denied he was a target of an FBI corruption investigation.
The denial came after an ESPN television documentary said the Swiss official stayed away from the US over a FIFA investigation.