Authorities raided the Venezuelan Football Federation’s offices in Caracas on Wednesday, days after Swiss police arrested the organization’s president, Rafael Esquivel, in Zurich. Esquivel was one of nine current and former FIFA employees the U.S. Justice Department indicted last week on corruption charges.
The raid, which was carried out by members of Venezuela's military intelligence, was conducted “as part of the investigation into alleged irregularities” related to Esquivel’s actions, Venezuela’s Public Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement obtained by Reuters. Esquivel has served as the Venezuelan Football Federation’s president since 1988. Authorities did not provide further information on the raid.
Esquivel was one of seven individuals arrested May 27 at a Zurich hotel by Swiss authorities acting at the U.S. Justice Department’s behest. The indicted international soccer executives stand accused of various forms of corruption, including money laundering and accepting more than $150 million in bribes and illegal kickbacks in exchange for preferential treatment on media and marketing rights, according to a U.S. Justice Department’s press release.
The CONMEBOL Copa America soccer, South America’s premier soccer tournament, was among the events impacted by alleged corruption. Esquivel is a CONMEBOL executive committee member. He could be extradited to the United States to face the corruption charges, Reuters reported.
The arrests came just hours before the start of the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich, where the international soccer governing body held its presidential elections. Sepp Blatter, the longtime FIFA president who dodged scandal after scandal during his time in office, was not directly implicated in the corruption scandal. He won re-election on May 29, but resigned from the post in a surprise announcement earlier this week.
“While I have a mandate from the membership of FIFA, I do not feel that I have a mandate from the entire world of football – the fans, the players, the clubs, the people who live, breathe and love football as much as we all do at FIFA,” Blatter said in a statement. “Therefore, I have decided to lay down my mandate at an extraordinary elective congress. I will continue to exercise my functions as FIFA President until that election.”