ZURICH (AP) — A report says the high-ranking FIFA official who allegedly made a $10-million payment central to a U.S. probe into soccer corruption is believed to be Sepp Blatter’s right-hand man, Jerome Valcke.
The New York Times (http://nyti.ms/1cuRzGM) reported late Monday that American law enforcement officials believe Valcke, FIFA’s secretary general, transferred the money in 2008 to accounts controlled by Jack Warner, the former CONCACAF president and FIFA vice president who faces corruption charges in the U.S. The report cited unidentified law enforcement officials.
American investigators believe the money was paid as a bribe in exchange for Warner and others voting to give the 2010 World Cup to South Africa.
The Times said Valcke said in an email that he did not authorize the payment and did not have the power to do so. In a statement, a FIFA spokesperson said the payment was authorized by the then-finance committee chairman, per FIFA regulations. The chairman, Julio Grondona, died last year.
The payment is at the heart of a probe by the U.S. Department of Justice that led to seven FIFA members arrested last week and a total of 14 people named in a racketeering indictment accusing soccer officials of accepting more than $150 million in bribes.
Blatter, who won re-election Friday for a fifth term as FIFA president despite the scandal, has denied being the unidentified high-ranking official named in the indictment as having “caused” the payment.
“Definitely that is not me,” Blatter said at a news conference.
Former South African President Thabo Mbeki on Monday denied his government paid bribes to secure the World Cup. Danny Jordaan, the bid chief for the 2010 tournament, told a South African newspaper that the money was sent to Warner’s regional confederation to help with soccer development in the Caribbean.
FIFA announced earlier Monday that Valcke had canceled his planned trip to attend the opening of the Women’s World Cup in Canada on Saturday “due to the current situation.”
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