While former Costa Rican football federation president Eduardo Li remains locked up in a Swiss prison, his lawyer says he’s optimistic Li will not be extradited to the United States for trial.
Li, who was also an executive committee member of football’s top governing body, FIFA, was named in a 161-page federal indictment released by the United States in late May, accused of engaging in “multiple acts of bribery” among other charges.
His lawyer, José Miguel Villalobos, said the U.S. government sent a formal extradition request on July 2. Villalobos called the federal indictment “weak” and said he believes his client will not be extradited to the U.S. because the government cannot prove he committed a crime in Switzerland.
Under the countries’ extradition agreements, a person can only be extradited if the alleged crime is punishable under both Swiss and U.S. law.
Ultimately it will be up to the Swiss judge to determine whether Li’s case warrants extradition, including whether the charges of conspiracy posed against the former FIFA executive weigh heavily enough.
Prosecutors allege that Li requested a six-figure bribe from a co-conspirator representing the sports marketing firm Traffic Sports USA in exchange for signing a contract worth up to $3 million on behalf of the Costa Rican soccer federation (FEDEFUTBOL). They also charged Li, along with 13 other FIFA executives, of money laundering, wire fraud and multiple acts of bribery.
According to the indictment, an August, 2012 wire transfer of $27,500 was sent from Traffic Sports USA’s bank account in Miami, Florida to a Wells Fargo account under the Costa Rican football federation’s name in New York. But Villalobos said there’s no document to prove that any of the transfers occurred under Li’s name.
“That bribe was not paid nor does there exist any evidence that Li asked for it,” Villalobos said.
On Tuesday, the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) announced that it had severed ties with Traffic Sports USA, which held the rights to the next four Gold Cup tournaments, through 2021, and the next seven seasons of the annual CONCACAF Champions League.
FEDEFUTBOL officials have reportedly said that they will honor Costa Rica’s contract with Traffic Sports USA until 2022. The Tico Times tried several times this week to contact FEDEFUTBOL officials by phone but was told no one in the office was authorized to comment on the issue. Most Costa Rican football association officials are likely in the U.S. this week for the Gold Cup.
Li was appointed in April to be one of CONCACAF’s three representatives on FIFA’s executive committee. The indictment and arrests of Li and 13 other FIFA executives led to the resignation of embattled FIFA president Sepp Blatter in early June.
Li’s lawyer Villalobos said there was “no evidence or statement that he [Li] used his position in FIFA to benefit himself.”
“So in relation to the indictment at the end of May that led to Eduardo’s detention in Switzerland, it seems to be a very weak document that has no basis in claiming Eduardo Li committed criminal acts.”