In the end, it was all very Watergate-esque: a leading newspaper, in this case The New York Times, on Monday quoted American law enforcement sources claiming that in 2008, FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke diverted $10 million from the South African World Cup organizing committee budget to accounts controlled by disgraced former CONCACAF president Jack Warner, who was among the 14 indicted by the FBI last week, in exchange for the votes of both his vote and those of two unidentified co-conspirators (fellow former FIFA executive committee members Chuck Blazer and Rafael Salguero from Concacaf) in favor of South Africa winning the bid for the 2010 World Cup over Morocco. South Africa won the bid to host the tournament in a 2004 vote of the 24-member executive committee.
Immediately following the publication of the NYT report, FIFA confirmed the payment but said that Valcke was not involved. Instead, soccer’s world governing body passed the buck to former Senior Vice President and executive committee member Julio Grondona -- a longtime ally of Blatter’s -- who died last year.
However, unfortunately for FIFA’s cover-up, it would later emerge that Valcke appeared to be directly involved, as the South African Broadcasting Corporation published a 2008 letter addressed to Valcke from South African soccer association (SAFA) president Molefi Oliphant which contained detailed instructions about the payment.
In the letter, obtained by ESPN but originally published by PA Sport, Oliphant informs Valcke that the South African government had authorized a $10 million payment to its World Cup organizing committee while at the same time asking FIFA to take $10 million out of the organizing committee’s “future operational budget” and to instead divert that sum to something called the “Diaspora Legacy Programme,” The fiduciary of said program was none other than Mr. Warner.
Before we move on, let’s get this straight: per the letter, SAFA’s president asked FIFA to send $10 million that originated as South African tax dollars to some kind of soccer development program for the country’s ex-patriots living in the Caribbean.
Well, according to this Wikipedia page, there is not a significant population of South Africans living in the Caribbean. However, if you add in the USA and the rest of the CONCACAF region, you might get close to 100,000 (note: Off The Post is making an educated-guess here). But even if you add up all the South African ex-pats living in the Northern Hemisphere, $10 million is an awful lot to spend on the development of their soccer skills, right?
Of course, reading between the lines, it would seem that FIFA, SAFA, Jack Warner and the South African government of then-President Thabo Mbeki defrauded the South African people of $10 million of their tax dollars, presumably in exchange for the Concacaf votes on the executive committee. As anyone who knows anything about South African politics would tell you, this is all highly plausible.
Though FIFA maintained for a time that this movement of funds was all above board and completely in line with its rules, everyone can plainly see what’s going on here, so it’s no surprise that Blatter finally decided to throw in the towel on Tuesday afternoon.
The question now is whether the 79-year-old Swiss can be directly linked to the fraud. In an AP report over the weekend, Blatter insisted he was not the high-ranking official named in the Department of Justice indictment as having “caused” the $10 million payment.
That, of course, was the deceased Grondona.
However, if the DOJ can somehow link Blatter to this mess -- ABC News is reporting that sources familiar with the case say Blatter is indeed being investigated by the FBI and prosecutors -- he may yet end up exactly where he belongs: in jail.