The scandal surrounding FIFA President Sepp Blatter got ever more interesting on Monday, as reports emerged in the New York Times that FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke made a $10 million bank transaction which is at the center of the federal investigation into world soccer's governing body. The full Times report can be found here.
It goes on to state that the suspicion around Valcke centers on a payment made to former CONCACAF President Jack Warner in 2008. Said payment is allegedly a bribe for Warner's help in rallying support for South Africa's 2010 World Cup bid. The South Africans were awarded the tournament in 2004, but did not have sufficient funds to pay Warner at that time. Later, when it came time for FIFA to give the South African organizing committee money to be used for the staging of the tournament, $10 million went to Warner.
However, crucially, the report in the Times states that: "The indictment does not say that the high-ranking official knew that the money was being used as a bribe and, unlike many other FIFA officials and marketing executives, Mr. Valcke is not identified as a co-conspirator in the document."
The South African Football Association have not denied sending Warner the money, but they insist that it was not a bribe and merely a payment to the "CONCACAF Development Fund". However, according to a report in the Sunday Independent, this money was deducted directly out of a $100 million pot which FIFA gave to South Africa in order to stage the tournament, and no similar payments were made to any other confederations.
This latest news comes less than a week after the US Department of Justice unsealed indictments against 14 former FIFA executives and media marketing personnel. There have long been rumors and suspicions about illegal activities within the walls of FIFA, but it has not been until now that there is tangible evidence connecting Blatter’s inner circle to the corruption.
This report from the Times comes just hours after FIFA said in a press release that Valcke would not be traveling to Canada for the opening match of the Women’s World Cup on Saturday, as is customary for the Secretary General. Rather, he will be staying "due to the current situation", and because "it is important that he attends to matters at FIFA's headquarters in Zurich."
Valcke responded to the Times request for a quote with an emailed response, in which he stated that he didn't authorize the payment and did not have the power to do so. He has yet to be formally accused of any wrongdoing.
Meanwhile, FIFA spokeswoman Delia Fisher stated that former finance committee member Julio Grondona authorized the transfer. Grondona died last year. It is yet to be known what will come of this latest piece of the puzzle, but one thing is clear: never has the stench of corruption been so near to Sepp Blatter.