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Swiss court refuses to release Venezuelan indicted in FIFA case on bail on medical grounds


ZURICH — A senior South American soccer official has been denied bail on health grounds in Switzerland as he fights extradition to the United Sates after being indicted in the FIFA bribery case.

CONMEBOL vice president Rafael Esquivel of Venezuela, one of seven soccer officials arrested in Zurich in May, is currently in hospital in Switzerland, the Federal Office of Justice told The Associated Press on Monday.

At the time of his arrest, the 68-year-old Esquivel was president of the Venezuelan federation he has led since 1988. He has since been replaced by an acting president.

Esquivel is accused by American authorities of receiving bribes worth millions of dollars in connection with the sale of marketing rights to the Copa America tournaments in 2007, 2015, 2016, 2019 and 2023.

Esquivel is appealing against the decision last month by the Swiss justice ministry to grant an American extradition request, the Berne-based justice office said.

An earlier statement by the Federal Criminal Court, which didn't name Esquivel, said he had sought bail because of his "advanced age and poor state of health." That was "not regarded as sufficient to counter the risk of absconding," the court said.

The court also found that he was "more than capable of traveling," has no close ties to Switzerland and electronic monitoring would not reduce his flight risk. Further medical tests are being carried out.

Extradition requests have also been granted for ousted FIFA vice president and former Costa Rican federation president .

Three other men are in custody in Switzerland after being indicted in the corruption case launched by the U.S. Justice Department and arrested while here for the FIFA Congress in May.

The U.S. blocked Nicaragua's attempt to extradite FIFA development staffer Julio Rocha. Costas Takkas, a British aide to former FIFA vice president Jeffrey Webb, and Jose Maria Marin, who was president of the 2014 World Cup organizing committee in Brazil, remain in custody.

Webb is the only one of seven men arrested in Zurich to now be in the U.S.

Sepp Blatter is still in power at FIFA after rejecting demands on Friday from four sponsors to quit immediately instead of remaining president until the emergency election in February.

When contacted by The Associated Press on Monday, Coca-Cola, Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev and McDonald's all declined to say what their response would be to Blatter snubbing their request. Visa did not respond to questions.

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