SAN JOSE (Reuters) - Costa Rica has opened investigations into the president of the country’s soccer federation who was among seven FIFA executives arrested in Switzerland on Wednesday on corruption charges brought by prosecutors in the United States.
The news caused concern in the Central American country, where federation chief Eduardo Li was named 2014 person of the year by newspaper La Nacion for his role in the national team’s unexpected run to the quarter-finals of the World Cup in Brazil.
Nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives were indicted on corruption, bribery and money laundering charges, the U.S. Department of Justice said. Seven people, including Li, were arrested at a Zurich hotel two days before the FIFA Congress.
“The investigation opened today aims to determine whether the hypothesis of the U.S. Department of Justice probe related to a case of money laundering and corruption involving Eduardo Li...can be corroborated,” Costa Rica’s public prosecutor’s office said.
It said the office was in contact with U.S. law enforcement.
Later on Wednesday, Costa Rica’s tax office said it had opened an investigation into Li’s various business interests in the country. According to reports in local media, Li controls at least 10 companies in the country.
“We’re not just going to sit around waiting,” Juan Carlos Gomez, the deputy director general of the national tax office, told reporters. “We’re going to investigate fraud, money movements, whatever.”
In an interview with newspaper La Nacion published late last year, Li said he received no salary as the head of the country’s soccer association, saying that he mainly lived off the money generated by his various businesses, without giving more detail.
“Many people don’t understand the sacrifices involved in this,” he was quoted as saying.
Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis told reporters he was surprised by the news of the 56-year-old Li’s arrest.
“I hope the name of Costa Rica is not affected,” he said.
Additional reporting by Max de Haldevang; Writing by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Grant McCool and Lisa Shumaker