Top FIFA deputy Jerome Valcke behind $10 million in payments - report
U.S. authorities say FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke allegedly made $10 million in payments at the centre of the scandal sweeping through world football's governing body, according to the New York Times.
Valcke, who denied culpability to the Times and has not been charged, is FIFA's highest non-elected official and would be the top figure yet targeted in an investigation that has already seen two sitting vice presidents and a dozen others connected to the game indicted on federal charges including bribery, racketeering and money laundering.
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In announcing the indictments, prosecutors mentioned an unidentified "high-ranking FIFA official" who "caused" $10 million to be transferred from FIFA to former vice president Jack Warner in 2008. Law enforcement officials told the New York Times they believe that official to be Valcke.
The indictment said the payments to Warner were in exchange for votes for South Africa to host the 2010 World Cup. But when South Africa's football federation were unable to pay the bribe, FIFA delivered the amount to Warner instead. South African officials have denied these claims.
FIFA spokeswoman Delia Fischer told the Times that the chairman of the finance committee at the time, the late Julio Grondona, authorised Warner's payment, but that the payment was "executed in accordance with the Organisation Regulations," which Valcke follows as part of his duties in charge of FIFA's finances.
However, FIFA later released a statement claiming that Valcke was not involved with the project.
"In 2007, as part of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the South African Government approved a USD 10m project to support the African diaspora in Caribbean countries as part of the World Cup legacy," it read.
"At the request of the South African Government, and in agreement with the South African Football Association (SAFA), FIFA was asked to process the project's funding by withholding USD 10m from the Local Organising Committee's (LOC) operational budget and using that to finance the Diaspora Legacy Programme.
"SAFA instructed FIFA that the Diaspora Legacy Programme should be administered and implemented directly by the President of CONCACAF who at that time was Deputy Chairman of the Finance Committee and who should act as the fiduciary of the Diaspora Legacy Programme Fund of USD 10m.
"The payments totalling USD 10m 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. 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 above project."
When asked last week whether he was the unidentified official behind Warner's payment, newly re-elected FIFA president Sepp Blatter said: "Definitely that is not me. I have no $10 million."
Valcke is a long-time ally of Blatter's, and the pair celebrated together after the Swiss won re-election at the FIFA Congress on Friday.
In 2006, Valcke was fired as FIFA's marketing director after an American judge ruled that he lied in negotiations with credit card companies on a sponsorship deal. But after FIFA settled with MasterCard, Blatter appointed Valcke as secretary general.
Earlier on Monday, Valcke cancelled his planned trip to represent FIFA at the Women's World Cup in Canada, which begins this weekend.
"It is important that he attend to matters at FIFA's headquarters in Zurich," Fischer said.