The FIFA scandal appears to have moved a step closer to its president, Joseph Blatter. A US newspaper has reported that his top lieutenant was behind a $10-million payment central to a major corruption investigation.
A report published on Monday by the "New York Times" named FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke as the person who allegedly made handed $10 million (9.14 million euros) to former FIFA Vice President Jack Warner.
The alleged payment was cited in an indictment filed in a US federal court in Brooklyn, New York last week, which said that an unidentified "high-ranking FIFA official" had made the payment to Warner for helping South Africa secure the 2010 World Cup. According to the indictment, the payment was made in three separate wire transfers in 2008.
Warner, the former president of CONCACAF, soccer's governing body in North and Central America, was among several current or former FIFA officials indicted and arrested for alleged corruption last week. He has been released from a Trinidad and Tobago jail after being granted bail.
Not named in indictment
Valcke was not named in the indictment and has not been accused of any wrongdoing, but the "New York Times" report cited unnamed law enforcement officials who said Valcke was the high-ranking official in question. It also said that Valcke had told the newspaper in an email that not only did he not make the payment, but that he was not even authorized to take such an action on behalf of soccer's world governing body.
Coincidentally, FIFA announced on Monday that Valcke would not be traveling to Canada to attend the opening of the Women's World Cup next week.
"It is important that he attends to matters at FIFA's headquarters in Zurich," a FIFA statement said.
The "New York Times" report came a day after the Johannesburg newspaper "Sunday Independent" quoted Danny Jordaan as confirming that $10 million had been paid to CONCACAF in 2008, however the president of the South African Football Association denied that it was a bribe.
Two separate investigations are being carried out by US and Swiss authorities into alleged corruption connected to FIFA. Several leading figures were arrested by Swiss police on behalf of the Americans in pre-dawn raids at a Zurich hotel last Wednesday. This came just two days before FIFA's congress elected the 79-year-old Blatter to a fifth term as president.
pfd/msh (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)