Jeffrey Webb, the arrested soccer official who was transferred this week to the U.S., might be a key asset to prosecutors weighing whether to build cases against others including outgoing FIFA president Joseph “Sepp” Blatter.
Webb is one of nine officials at FIFA, soccer’s governing body, and five marketing executives charged in a racketeering and bribery indictment unsealed May 27. The U.S. said Webb, a suspended FIFA vice president, took millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks for media rights to soccer tournaments.
The official, who agreed last week to be extradited, could plead guilty and help investigators in a bid for leniency at sentencing. If so, he might provide a road map to the inner workings of FIFA and his dealings with Blatter, who isn’t charged.
Webb was also close to Jack Warner, an ex-president of soccer’s governing body for North America, Central America and the Caribbean, or Concacaf.
“If there was an opportunity to cooperate, this is the time to do it,” said Jeff Neiman, a former federal prosecutor not involved in the case. “By getting to the United States quickly, he’s positioned himself well if it’s his desire to cooperate. Given his position, he undoubtedly has knowledge about those he played ball with at FIFA and Concacaf.”
Most defendants brought to the U.S. from abroad appear in court almost immediately after landing on American soil, said Lawrence Schoenbach, a New York lawyer with offices in Zurich, Paris and the Virgin Islands who has represented individuals who were extradited. A delayed court appearance might be a strong signal that a defendant is working out a deal, he said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Evan Norris told a federal judge in Brooklyn on Friday that Webb is in the U.S. but prosecutors “don’t have a date yet” for when he will be arraigned.
His attorney, Edward O’Callaghan, didn’t immediately reply to an e-mail and call seeking comment about the case. Nellin McIntosh, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn, declined to comment.
A former Cayman Islands banker, Webb became a favorite of Blatter, who suggested he would be an ideal successor. As the deputy chairman of FIFA’s internal audit committee for a decade, Webb may have details of financial transactions signed off by Blatter and sent to soccer officials implicated in the scandal.
Warner quit amid a corruption scandal in 2012 and is among those indicted, accused of taking bribes for media rights. Prosecutors say Webb took up where Warner left off, cashing in on the lucrative television rights that Concacaf controlled.
The pressure on Warner, a Trinidad resident, is building from those close to him. His two sons have pleaded guilty, as has Charles Blazer, 70, Concacaf’s former general secretary. All are cooperating with prosecutors. Webb also served a decade ago as the director of a Cayman company that Warner controlled, court records show.
Warner in June publicly promised an avalanche of revelations about FIFA corruption. Instead, facing extradition, he posted a rambling video online saying he had placed files with attorneys in multiple countries that contain details that compromise Blatter.
Asked to elaborate on those allegations, Warner responded in an e-mail: “If and when I decide to disseminate any further information you will be advised.”
Neiman, the former prosecutor, said that Webb may have concluded that being in jail in Switzerland is more difficult than being out on bond in the U.S.
“If he were to cooperate, it’s logistically harder to do outside the United States,” Neiman said. “You can’t have it both ways in fighting extradition and cooperating.”