Amid a deepening corruption crisis within football's governing body, FIFA defended its second-in-command on Tuesday by trying to distance him from claims he helped authorise $10 million in bribes for World Cup bidding votes.
FIFA said the three payments totaling $10 million mentioned in a U.S. federal indictment, which are at the heart of a Department of Justice probe, were approved in 2007 by Julio Grondona, the former chairman of FIFA's finance committee who died last year.
The $10 million payment from FIFA to an account controlled by the disgraced former vice president Jack Warner followed a letter addressed to FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke, the Press Association said.
The payment followed a letter from South African FA president Molefi Oliphant to Valcke asking for the payment to be withheld from World Cup funds and paid instead to Warner to support football in the Caribbean.
The New York Times has reported that U.S. authorities said Valcke made the payment at the heart of the FIFA bribery scandal, while a U.S. Justice Department indictment of 14 people on corruption charges said the money was paid to Warner and his deputy Chuck Blazer in return for their voting for the 2010 World Cup to be played in South Africa.
A FIFA statement said Valcke was not involved, but that the payment was made at the request of the South African government and FA, and authorised by Grondona, a longtime ally of FIFA president Sepp Blatter who served as a member of FIFA's executive committee for 26 years.
Press Association Sport has seen a copy of the letter that contains detailed instructions for the payment.
BOMBSHELL: Letter from South Africa FA to FIFA instructing $10m payment to Warner WAS addressed to Jerome Valcke pic.twitter.com/b0yKBPRAcA
- Martyn Ziegler (@martynziegler) June 2, 2015
The letter reads:
"Dear Mr Valcke, In view of the decision by the South African Government that an amount of US$ 10 million be paid to the 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee South Africa, the South African Football Association requests that FIFA withholds an amount of US$ 10 million from the Organising Committee's future operational budget funding and thereafter advances the amount to the Diaspora Legacy Programme.
"In addition, SAFA requests that the Diaspora Legacy Programme be administered and implemented directly by the President of CONCACAF who shall act as a fiduciary of the Fund.
"SAFA therefore confirms that:
"1. FIFA shall withhold US$ 10 million from the Organising Committee's future operational budget funding in order to finance the Diaspora Legacy Programme, thereby reducing the Organising Committee's overall budget from US$ 423 million to USD$ 413 million.
"2. The Diaspora Legacy Programme shall be administered and implemented directly by the President of CONCACAF who shall act as a fiduciary of the Diaspora Legacy Programme Fund of US$ 10 million.
"Yours faithfully, Dr M Oliphant."
According to the U.S. indictment, the money was siphoned off into Warner's personal accounts, and he paid $750,000 of a promised $1 million to Blazer. FIFA said neither Valcke nor any other senior management figure was involved.
A FIFA statement said: "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 [World Cup organising committee]. 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."
FIFA announced on Monday that Valcke had canceled his planned trip to attend the opening of the Women's World Cup in Canada on Saturday "due to the current situation.''
Information from Press Association and The Associated Press was used in this report.