FIFA President Sepp Blatter has been able to personally steer clear of the allegations being lobbed at soccer’s governing body—so far. On Monday, however, the New York Times reports the DOJ’s investigation has inched its way up the ladder towards Blatter. According to the Times, U.S. investigators believe Blatter’s number two, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke, made a suspicious $10 million bank transfer in 2008 that is central to the corruption case where soccer officials stand accused of accepting more than $150 million in bribes. The money was transferred to accounts controlled by another FIFA official, Jack Warner.
The logic of FIFA making a $10 million payment as part of a scheme to bribe FIFA itself during the 2010 World Cup host selection process is, at first glace, counter-intuitive. Here’s more from the Times on how prosecutors think the scheme played out:
In 2004, as FIFA’s executive committee considered where to host the 2010 World Cup, South Africa’s government agreed to pay Mr. Warner and others $10 million in exchange for their votes, according to the indictment. Mr. Warner voted for South Africa, but in the months and years after the vote, South Africa was unable to pay. So rather than take a payment directly from South Africa, the indictment says, FIFA itself paid Mr. Warner in 2008, using money that would otherwise have gone to South Africa to support the World Cup. In effect, the indictment says the bribe was paid on the back end of the deal, so South Africa received $10 million less from FIFA than it otherwise would have.
The head of the South African World Cup bid said the money was not a bribe, but a contribution to a Caribbean soccer development fund. Warner is from Trinidad, was head of the North and Central American regional soccer organization at the time, and, prosecutors say, spent most of the cash on himself. Warner was arrested and indicted last week. Valcke has not been charged or named in the indictment, and maintains he did not authorize the $10 million payment. Another round of indictments is expected.