A 2007 email shows FIFA President Sepp Blatter and then-South African President Thabo Mbeki held “discussions” over the $10 million that ultimately went to allegedly corrupt senior soccer executives as payback for supporting the country’s World Cup bid, a newspaper claimed on Sunday.
South Africa’s Sunday Times reported that the email from FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke to the South African government asks when the $10 million, characterized as a bribe by American investigators, will be transferred.
The newspaper said that in the email, which was not published, Valcke wrote that the $10 million was “based on discussions between FIFA and the South African government, and also between our President (Blatter) and President Thabo Mbeki.”
U.S. investigators alleged in their indictment into corruption in world soccer that the $10 million went to Jack Warner, who is currently under arrest, as payback for him and two other FIFA executive committee members at the time for voting for South Africa to host the 2010 World Cup.
It was wired from FIFA to accounts controlled by Warner in three payments in early 2008, the U.S. Department of Justice said.
FIFA and the South African government have said it was money given legitimately by South Africa through FIFA to help soccer development in Warner’s Caribbean region.
FIFA said in a statement to The Associated Press on Sunday that sending money to Warner was the idea of the South African government and Blatter was being updated by Mbeki in their discussions. The correspondence from Valcke constitutes “information, not involvement” on behalf of Blatter and Valcke, FIFA said.
“This programme was initiated by the South African government for the Caribbean and it was publicly announced by them at the time,” FIFA said.
FIFA denied Valcke made the transfers to Warner and said they were “authorized” on FIFA’s side by its then finance committee chairman Julio Grondona of Argentina, who died last year.
Mbeki’s office denied any involvement in bribes in a statement when the FIFA corruption scandal broke. On Sunday, Mbeki’s spokesman, Mukoni Ratshitanga, referred the AP to the earlier statement denying the South African government’s involvement in any bribes when Mbeki was president.
Described as money for soccer development, the South African cash ended up going to former FIFA vice president Warner of Trinidad and American Chuck Blazer, both then members of FIFA’s top executive committee, according to the DOJ. Blazer has admitted to receiving bribes in connection with the 2004 vote that resulted in South Africa becoming the first African nation to host the World Cup.
Warner is one of 14 soccer and marketing officials indicted and under arrest on corruption charges, which include racketeering, bribery and money laundering.
Blatter announced he was quitting as FIFA president last week with the world soccer body rocked by the biggest scandal in its 111-year history. The 79-year-old Blatter has not been specifically implicated in the Justice Department investigation.
Report by Associated Press.
Wes Harris on the FIFA scandal
For more on the FIFA scandal, CCTV’s Susan Roberts spoke to Wes Harris in Minneapolis. He’s the managing editor of the website, ‘Bussiness of Soccer.’