Sepp Blatter knew about $10m ‘bribe’ for 2010 World Cup, FIFA has confirmed
Sepp Blatter personally discussed a $10 million “bribe” at the centre of corruption allegations over the 2010 World Cup bidding with Thabo Mbeki, the then South African president, a new document suggests.
The disclosure prompted FIFA to admit that Mr Blatter – president of football’s governing body for the last 17 years, who announced his resignation last week – knew about the payment.
But it claimed that although Mr Blatter and other senior officials had “information” about it, this did not constitute any “involvement”.
The disclosure came as a senior FIFA official said Russia could still be stripped of the right to host the 2018 World Cup.
Domenico Scala, the independent chairman of its audit and compliance committee, told a Swiss newspaper that the selection process could be invalidated if evidence should emerge that the decision was due to bought votes.
His comments came after undercover recordings released by ‘The Sunday Times’ cast further doubt over the bidding process that led to South Africa hosting the 2010 World Cup.
Ismail Bhamjee, a FIFA executive committee member, was recorded claiming that he believed Morocco had won more votes than South Africa, but FIFA manipulated the results of the secret ballot.
Questions over the bidding for the 2010 tournament now centre on a $10 million (€9m) payment by the South African government said to fund a project for the African diaspora in Caribbean countries.
The money was sent from FIFA to an account controlled by its disgraced former vice-president Jack Warner, following a request to FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke, from the South African Football Association.
Last week FIFA insisted that neither Mr Valcke nor any other of its senior figures were “involved in the initiation, approval and implementation” of the deal.
In an email seen by ‘The Daily Telegraph’, dated December 7, 2007, Mr Valcke appears to be chasing a South African minister over the payment. “I have never received confirmation but more important I would like to know when the transfer can be done,” he wrote.
Crucially, he went on to remind the recipient that the plan was: “Based on a discussion between FIFA and the South African government and also between our president and HE President M’Beki.”
The message refers to an earlier letter, dated September 19, 2007, in which Mr Valcke details the South Africans’ commitment to paying $10m to a legacy programme for Africans in the diaspora “and specifically for the Caribbean countries”.
But a spokesman for FIFA insisted the messages did not prove that Mr Valcke and Mr Blatter were involved.
“It is simply referring to an update given by the then president of South Africa to the FIFA president about the South African government’s formal request,” she said.
“That constitutes information, not involvement. As previously stated and confirmed by the South African authorities, this programme was initiated by the South African Government for the Caribbean and it was publicly announced by them at the time.”
She added: “He [Mr Valcke] was aware of but did not initiate the transfer. The transaction was authorised by the then chairman of the finance committee.”
The FBI – which launched a probe into alleged corruption by FIFA officials and issued warrants for the arrest of Mr Warner and eight others – has alleged the payment constituted a bribe in exchange for his support for the South African bid, and that Mr Warner took much of the money for his own use.
South Africa’s government has confirmed it authorised the payment but rejected suggestions it was a bribe. (©Daily Telegraph, London)