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FIFA denies Valcke involvement in $10-million payment to Warner

FIFA has denied that anyone now in senior management was involved in a payment to indicted former Vice President Jack Warner. This followed a newspaper report that Secretary-General Jerome Valcke had made the payment.

A statement posted on FIFA's website on Tuesday acknowledged that the $10 million (9.14 million euro) payment had been made by world soccer's governing body, but it denied that Valcke had been the person to authorize paying former FIFA Vice President Jack Warner.

"Neither the Secretary General Jerome Valcke nor any other member of FIFA's senior management were involved in the initiation, approval and implementation," of the payment, the statement said.

It said the payment was approved by the chairman of FIFA's finance committee in 2007. This would be Julio Grondona, a longtime member of FIFA's powerful Executive Committee, who passed away last year.

'Supporting the diaspora'

The statement went on to explain that the $10 million had been withheld from the operational budget of the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. It said this had been done at the request of the LOC, which asked that FIFA pass the funds along to a project in the Caribbean "to support the African diaspora in Caribbean countries as part of the World Cup legacy."

The statement came just hours after the "New York Times" reported that US law enforcement officials believed that it was Valcke who transferred the money to accounts controlled by Warner, who is also a former head of CONCACAF, the governing body for North and Central America. The NYT also reported that Valcke had denied this in an emailed statement to the paper.

US criminal investigation

The $10 million payment is at the heart of a probe by the US Department of Justice that led to several senior FIFA members being arrested in pre-dawn raids at a Zurich hotel last Wednesday and a total of 14 people named in a racketeering indictment. Jack Warner turned himself in to the authorities in Trinidad and Tobago, but has since been released on bail.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who on Friday was re-elected for a fifth four-year term, has denied being the unidentified "high-ranking official" named in the indictment as having "caused" the $10 million payment.

pfd/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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