Swiss approve extradition of Cayman Islands’ FIFA corruption defendant
GEORGE TOWN, Grand Cayman – Swiss authorities have approved the US extradition request for Costas Takkas, who was Cayman Islander Jeffrey Webb’s assistant when he was president of the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Football Associations (CONCACAF).
Takkas has 30 days to appeal the decision by the Federal Office of Justice (FOJ), failing which he will be flown to New York to enter a plea at the US District Court in Brooklyn.
Three of Takkas’s co-defendants have already entered not-guilty pleas in Brooklyn, while the other 10 remain overseas pending extradition from Trinidad, Switzerland, and Argentina.
Takkas, a British subject and former resident of the Cayman Islands, was general secretary with the Cayman Islands Football Association (CIFA), who worked for Webb as an attaché in Miami after the local football boss became the regional president.
They were both in Zürich on May 27 when they were seized in the dawn raid that lifted the lid on the massive FIFA corruption scandal that has brought down leaders of international soccer.
Takkas has been in custody in Switzerland since his arrest as part of the probe two days before the FIFA presidential election.
He is accused of accepting millions of dollars of bribes in exchange for awarding marketing contracts, which the Swiss justice office said “massively influenced the competitive situation and distorted the market for media rights in connection with the World Cup qualifying matches.”
So far Webb is the only one of the seven football officials arrested in Zürich over four months ago who has already gone to the United States. While extradition has been approved for two others, they are all contesting the orders and remain in Switzerland, according to the Cayman News Service.
Webb is due to appear in court in New York later this month, but has already pleaded not guilty to the charges laid against him in the massive US$150 million FIFA racketeering investigation.
The former CONCACAF boss is on bail after he was able to raise a $10 million bond by handing over a collection of luxury goods and properties, including a Ferrari, a Rolex and other designer watches, as well his wife’s diamonds.
Since the FIFA scandal rocked the football world in May, the administrative players have continued to make headlines at home and abroad.
On Thursday, FIFA president Sepp Blatter was suspended for 90 days by the association’s ethics committee and is currently part of an investigation launched by the Swiss attorney general’s office into corruption surrounding the last two World Cup awards.
The Swiss investigation is running parallel to the US investigation, which spans more than 20 years.
Former CONCACAF secretary-general Chuck Blazer began cooperating with the investigation in 2011 and later secretly pleaded guilty. His former boss and wingman, Austin “Jack” Warner of Trinidad and Tobago, has been indicted, and was allegedly involved in the 2005 television broadcast contract that Swiss authorities have seized upon to open a criminal investigation against Blatter.
Blatter denies any wrongdoing and is yet to surrender.
The New York Daily News reports that on Friday, two of his attorneys — one from a firm in Switzerland, the other American-based — issued a joint statement regarding their appeal of Blatter’s banishment from FIFA activities.
“We can confirm that we have requested additional proceedings before the Adjudicatory Chamber of the Ethics Committee and filed an appeal with the Appeal Committee,” said the lawyers, Lorenz Erni of Zurich and Richard Cullen of Richmond, Virginia.
Meanwhile, the new acting president of FIFA is Issa Hayatou of Cameroon, who assumed the office on an interim basis because he is the longest-serving vice-president on FIFA’s executive committee.