Columnist image
Rick Westhead

TSN Senior Correspondent


Soccer officials who suspect they might be under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department might want to avoid travelling to Canada for the Women’s World Cup.

That’s because in almost every instance since Canada rewrote its extradition law in 1999, the Canadian government has agreed to international extradition requests, the vast majority of them filed by the U.S. government.

Of the 1,500 extradition requests filed with the Canadian government since 1999, there are just five documented cases of Canada rejecting the request, said Gary Botting, a lawyer who specializes in extradition law out of Vancouver.

“The Canadian minister rubberstamps everything,” he said.

For those soccer officials who worried they might become entangled in the case, “there’s definitely less risk associated watching this tournament from afar,” said Greg Delbigio, a Vancouver lawyer who also specializes in extradition issues.

The soccer world was rocked on Wednesday after U.S. prosecutors unveiled an unprecedented indictment that named 14 people on charges of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering. The indictment alleged fraud within FIFA and global soccer is rampant and touched the 2010 World Cup, the 2011 FIFA presidential election and sports market deals.

The story has all the elements for a Hollywood blockbuster - suitcases stuffed with cash, offshore shell companies in tax havens, and wire taps.

In one wiretap recording, FIFA executive Jack Warner was recorded responding to an official who brought up the issue of bribery.

“There are some people here who think they are more pious than thou,” Warner said, according to the wiretap. “If you’re pious, open a church, friends. Our business is our business.”

Botting said the U.S. officials have probably already contacted the Canadian government to seek provisional warrants in case any of those who have already been indicted travel to Canada for the Women’s World Cup. If they did travel here, they would automatically be arrested, Botting said.

Lawyers said if any soccer official was arrested in Canada, they might wait several years, possibly out on bail, before their extradition hearing was finished.