South African Sports Minister Denies FIFA Payment Was A Bribe

South African Sports Minister Denies FIFA Payment Was A Bribe

In a press conference conducted at SAFA House in Johannesburg on Wednesday, South African Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula addressed the press regarding allegations that the South African government paid a $10million bribe to FIFA officials in order to secure their vote for the right to host the 2010 World Cup.

The minister denied that any bribes were paid, stating that the payment of $10m was made to benefit the African diaspora in a fund that was controlled through the Caribbean.

Bribery allegations surfaced last week when they formed part of a detailed indictment from US Attorney General Loretta Lynch regarding South Africa’s successful bid to host the 2010 World Cup, with the 160-page indictment referencing the payment of a $10million bribe requested by FIFA officials at the time.

This followed the arrest of 14 FIFA officials and marketing executives last week, as a result of a criminal investigation by US authorities on the basis of corruption charges worth an alleged $150m.

The indictment suggests that Jack Warner, a FIFA vice president and a representative of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU), solicited a bribe of some $10m from the South African government and the host bid committee.

According to the document, it is alleged that the South African government was unable to pay the $10m directly from available government funds, and “arrangements were thereafter made with FIFA officials to instead have the $10m sent from FIFA – using funds that would otherwise have gone from FIFA to South Africa to support the World Cup – to CFU.”

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The indictment suggests that a FIFA official sent the $10m in January and March 2008 from a FIFA account based in Switzerland via New York to a number of accounts that Warner had control over, with the Caribbean football representative taking a “substantial portion of the funds for his personal use”.

The indictment also mentions another fraudulent transaction involving Warner, where the FIFA vice president allegedly sent a relative to the French capital in order to “accept a briefcase containing bundles of US currency in $10 000 stacks in a hotel room from a high-ranking South African bid committee official”, which was then passed on to Warner.

Speaking at Wednesday’s press conference, Mbalula said that the payment of $10million was made, but that it was not a bribe.

“The Department issued its statement on 28 May 2015 following the FBI, US Attorney General’s indictment – we’ve summarised as the government and as the LOC that we have not paid any bribe to anyone to secure the 2010 FIFA World Cup,” Mbalula revealed to the media.

“We’ll approach US authorities through our diplomatic corps or channels to share the indictment. No bribe was paid to host the 2010 World Cup and we frown at the insinuation that we bribed for 2010 World Cup,” he added.

“We categorically deny that we bribed for 2010 WC. The $10m was for Africans in Diaspora not a bribe. This was an African World Cup, for all six African Regions including Africans in Diaspora,” Mbalula said.