FOJ approves extradition of Rafael Esquivel

Keywords: Corruption | Extradition

Press Release, FOJ, 23.09.2015

Bern. The Federal Office of Justice (FoJ) has approved the extradition of Rafael Esquivel to the USA. The Venezuelan citizen has 30 days in which to appeal to the Swiss Federal Criminal Court against the FOJ's ruling.

The former president of the Venezuelan Football Federation and member of the executive committee of the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) was arrested in Zurich along with six other FIFA officials on 27 May 2015, on the basis of an arrest request from the US. He was then held in custody pending extradition. The formal US extradition request which was submitted on 1 July 2015 is based on an arrest warrant issued on 20 May 2015 by the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York. Esquivel is accused of receiving bribes worth millions of dollars in connection with the sale of marketing rights to the Copa América tournaments in 2007, 2015, 2016, 2019 and 2023.

Market distortion

In its extradition ruling, the FOJ concluded that all of the conditions for extradition are fulfilled. Specifically, the facts laid down in the US extradition request are also punishable under Swiss law (the principle of dual criminality). According to the request, by accepting bribes for the award of sports marketing contracts, Esquivel massively influenced the competitive situation and distorted the market for media rights in connection with the Copa América. Other sports marketing companies were placed at a disadvantage, and the affected football federations were prevented from negotiating more favourable marketing agreements. In Switzerland, such conduct would be deemed unfair practices under the Federal Act on Unfair Competition.

The FOJ's extradition ruling is not yet legally enforceable. Esquivel has 30 days in which to lodge an appeal with the Federal Criminal Court, and five days in which to notify the FOJ of his intent to do so. The decision of the Federal Criminal Court may be taken before the Federal Supreme Court only under certain circumstances – specifically if there are indications of severe deficiencies in the foreign criminal proceedings.

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