Saturday 10 December 2016

FBI targets top FIFA officials in $10m bribe probe

Ben Rumsby

Published 06/12/2015 | 02:30

'A source close to Sepp Blatter said that the suspended FIFA president was definitely not Co-Conspirator #17 but would say only that he did not think the Swiss (79), was Co-Conspirator #14'
'A source close to Sepp Blatter said that the suspended FIFA president was definitely not Co-Conspirator #17 but would say only that he did not think the Swiss (79), was Co-Conspirator #14'

The FBI was closing in on the very centre of power at Fifa last night after two high-ranking officials were named as "co-conspirators" in a $10m bribe allegedly paid to bring the 2010 World Cup finals to South Africa.

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A new indictment published by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), following Thursday's dawn raid of the governing body's luxury hotel and arrest of another two of its vice-presidents, identified two further individuals involved in the "scheme".

Both were referenced in the original indictment released after the FBI-orchestrated swoop in May that sent FIFA into meltdown, but the amended charge sheet updated their status to that of "Co-Conspirator #14" and "Co-Conspirator #17".

A source close to Sepp Blatter said that the suspended FIFA president was definitely not Co-Conspirator #17 but would say only that he did not think the Swiss (79), was Co-Conspirator #14.

Neither Jerome Valcke, the banned FIFA secretary general, nor his lawyer responded to questions as to whether he was Co-Conspirator #17, while, the DOJ did not respond to requests for comment.

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Documents leaked in June revealed that Valcke had been given detailed instructions by the president of the South African Football Association about a $10m (€9.1m) transaction to disgraced FIFA vice-president Jack Warner.

Further correspondence shows Blatter was also aware of the payment. Both deny any wrongdoing, insisting they believed the money was to help football development in the Caribbean.

The new indictment says that Co-Conspirator #14 was among those "prepared to arrange for the government of South Africa to pay $10m" into an account controlled by Warner.

The charge sheet adds that former FIFA executive committee member Chuck Blazer - who has pleaded guilty to taking bribes after turning FBI supergrass - understood the payment to be "in exchange" for votes.

The indictment also states that Co-Conspirator #17 "caused payments" totalling $10m to be wired to the Warner-controlled account.

Valcke was reported this summer to have been the "high-ranking FIFA official" involved.

It remains to be seen what next steps the DOJ will take. Blatter is already facing criminal proceedings in Switzerland over a £1.3m payment to UEFA president Michel Platini. That led to both men being provisionally suspended by FIFA's ethics committee in October. At the same time Valcke was banned for 90 days after he was implicated in an alleged World Cup ticket touting scheme. All three men deny any wrongdoing.

It emerged on Friday that Blatter and Platini are scheduled to have their ethics cases heard separately between December 16-18 at FIFA headquarters.

Life bans are being sought for both men although they are more likely to receive finite, multi-year suspensions if found guilty.

Sunday Indo Sport

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