The position of Fifa’s powerful secretary general, Jérôme Valcke, is likely to come under intense pressure after new evidence emerged that showed he was aware of a 10 million-dollar payment from South African officials to Jack Warner described by US investigators as a bribe, reports The Guardian.
The revelation will also put the embattled Fifa president, Sepp Blatter, recently re-elected for a fifth term, under renewed pressure over whether he knew about the 2008 payment and what it was for.
Just an hour after Fifa had released a statement denying that Valcke authorised the transfer of 10 million dollars to a Bank of America account linked to Warner, a letter from the South African Football Association was obtained by the Press Association that was addressed to the longstanding Fifa secretary general. It showed he was aware of it and contained detailed instructions for payment.
Fifa’s statement had said neither Valcke, Blatter’s longtime closest ally and fixer, nor the president himself “were involved in the initiation, approval and implementation of the above project”.
The payment is at the heart of the Fifa bribery scandal - a US department of justice indictment of 18 people, including 13 Fifa executives, on corruption charges says the money was paid to Warner and his deputy, Chuck Blazer, in return for them voting for the 2010 World Cup to be played in South Africa.
The indictment states that “a high-ranking Fifa official caused payments … totalling 10 million dollars – to be wired from a Fifa account in Switzerland to a Bank of America correspondent account in New York … controlled by Jack Warner”.
The letter, seen by The Guardian, was dated March 4th 2008 and contained detailed instructions on how the money should be paid. The SAFA president, Molefi Oliphant, asks for the 10 million dollars to be deducted from the 423 million dollars due to the organisers of the World Cup by Fifa and instead routed to a “diaspora legacy programme” controlled by Jack Warner, the disgraced former president of Concacaf.
The letter from Oliphant to Valcke reads: “In view of the decision by the South African government that an amount of USD 10 million from the organising committee’s future operational budget funding and thereafter advances the amount to the Diaspora Legacy Programme. In addition, SAFA requests that the Diaspora Legacy Programme be administered and implemented directly by the President of Concacaf who shall act as a fiduciary of the Fund.”
A Fifa response read: “The letter is consistent to our statement where we underlined that the Fifa Finance Committee made the final approval.”
According to the US indictment, the money was siphoned off into Warner’s personal accounts and he paid $750,000 of a promised $1m to Blazer.
Warner, among those charged in the US, said after his arrest last week: “If I have been thieving money for 30 years, who gave me the money? How come he is not charged?”
American prosecutors last week accused nine senior current or former Fifa officials – seven of whom, including the Fifa vice-presidents Jeffrey Webb and Eugenio Figueredo, were arrested in dawn raids at a five-star hotel in Switzerland – of “hijacking” international football to run “a World Cup of fraud” to line their pockets by 150 million dollars.
In the indictment that followed the arrests last Wednesday, it was alleged that the 10 million-dollar payment from South Africa was routed to the Caribbean in return for World Cup votes.
Fifa’s statement, released this morning in the wake of overnight reports in the New York Times that Valcke was the unnamed senior official named in the indictment, said the French secretary general was not involved.
It said the payment was made at the request of the South African government and FA, and authorised by the Argentinian Julio Grondona, the former chairman of Fifa’s finance committee and long-time ally of president Sepp Blatter. Grondona died last year.
Fifa insisted Valcke nor any other senior management figure was involved. At a press conference on Saturday Blatter was asked about his knowledge of the 10 million-dollar payment and replied: “Definitely that’s not me. I have no 10 million dollars.”
The Fifa statement said: “The payments totalling USD 10 million were authorised by the then chairman of the Finance Committee and executed in accordance with the organisation regulations of Fifa. Fifa did not incur any costs as a result of South Africa’s request because the funds belonged to the LOC. Both the LOC and SAFA adhered to the necessary formalities for the budgetary amendment."