Swiss authorities conducted an extraordinary early-morning operation here Wednesday to arrest several top soccer officials and extradite them to the United States on federal corruption charges.
As leaders of FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, gathered for their annual meeting, more than a dozen plainclothes Swiss law enforcement officials arrived unannounced at the Baur au Lac hotel, an elegant five-star property with views of the Alps and Lake Zurich. They went to the front desk to get room numbers and then proceeded upstairs.
The arrests were carried out peacefully. One FIFA official, Eduardo Li of Costa Rica, was led by the authorities from his room to a side-door exit of the hotel. He was allowed to bring his luggage, which was adorned with FIFA logos.
The charges, backed by an F.B.I. investigation, allege widespread corruption in FIFA over the past two decades, involving bids for World Cups as well as marketing and broadcast deals.
Several hours after the soccer officials were apprehended at the hotel, Swiss authorities said that they had opened criminal cases related to the bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups — incidents that, more than any others, encapsulated FIFA’s unusual power dynamic. “In the course of said proceedings,”the Swiss officials said, “electronic data and documents were seized today at FIFA’s head office in Zurich.”
The arrests were a startling blow to FIFA, a multibillion-dollar organization that governs the world’s most popular sport but has been plagued by accusations of bribery for decades.
The inquiry is also a major threat to Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s longtime president who is generally recognized as the most powerful person in sports, though he was not charged. Blatter has for years acted as a de facto head of state. Politicians, star players, national soccer officials and global corporations that want their brands attached to the sport have long genuflected before him.
An election, seemingly preordained to give Mr. Blatter a fifth term as president, is scheduled for Friday. A FIFA spokesman insisted at the news conference that Mr. Blatter was not involved in any alleged wrongdoing and that the election would go ahead as planned.
The Department of Justice indictment names 14 people on charges including racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy. In addition to senior soccer officials, the indictment also named sports-marketing executives from the United States and South America who are accused of paying more than $150 million in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for media deals associated with major soccer tournaments.
The soccer officials charged are Mr. Li, Jeffrey Webb, Eugenio Figueredo, Jack Warner, Julio Rocha, Costas Takkas, Rafael Esquivel, José Maria Marin and Nicolás Leoz.
“FIFA welcomes actions that can help contribute to rooting out any wrongdoing in football,” the organization said in a statement.