South Africa, Sport, World

Analysis: What the FBI says about SA’s alleged 2010 involvement in bribery

Analysis: What the FBI says about SA’s alleged 2010 involvement in bribery

South Africa’s 2010 World Cup has become embroiled in a massive scandal as part of a broader investigation into FIFA’s corruption, bribery, money laundering and racketeering. But how exactly is South Africa involved? Here is a breakdown of the indictment. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.

By now you know that FIFA looked to be going to hell in a handcart on Tuesday, with a number of officials arrested in Zurich and loads more implicated in mega fraud by the US Department of Justice. The list of accusations is 164 pages long, and amongst the allegations is that South Africa was involved in bribery when it hosted the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

The release from the US Department of Justice details a number of charges including racketeering conspiracy and corruption. It mentions South Africa in the paragraph referring to racketeering conspiracies, stating: “Other alleged schemes relate to the payment and receipt of bribes and kickbacks in connection with the sponsorship of CBF by a major US sportswear company, the selection of the host country for the 2010 World Cup and the 2011 FIFA presidential election.”

At first glance, you might think that this does not necessarily implicate South Africa. According to evidence gathered by The Sunday Times in 2010, and cited by FIFA in a Court of Arbitration for Sport appeal, Morocco’s bid paid $150,000 to Ismail Bhamjee, a voter from Botswana, when South Africa defeated Morocco to host the 2010 World Cup. But the US investigators confirmed on Wednesday that they uncovered alleged bribes during the awarding of the World Cup to South Africa in 2010.

No African official’s name is on the US’ indictment list, but the infamous Jack Warner, former vice-president of FIFA, is. It also alleges that at least one unnamed co-conspirator was a high-ranking official of the 2006 South Africa World Cup bid committee and the 2010 South Africa World Cup bid committee and local organising committee.

According to the indictment, Warner allegedly took $10 million in bribes to help South Africa secure the vote. The money, the South African delegation said, would come straight from government, but the indictment later states, “The South Africans were unable to arrange for the payment to be made directly from government funds”. Arrangements were thereafter made with FIFA officials to instead have the $10 million sent from FIFA – using funds that would otherwise have gone from FIFA to South Africa to support the World Cup – to the Central American Football Union (CFU).

It goes on to say that an unnamed co-conspirator, a member of the Warner family, used Warner’s contacts in South Africa to organise friendly matches for CONCACAF teams to play in South Africa in 2000. Around the same time, Warner apparently told this same co-conspirator to fly to Paris and accept a briefcase containing bundles of US currency in $10,000 stacks in a hotel room from another unnamed co-conspirator (a high-ranking South African bid committee official). After picking up the money, the co-conspirator returned to Trinidad and handed it over to Warner.

Warner and a partner then travelled to Morocco in 2004, and was offered $1 million by a Moroccan bid committee official in exchange for his vote. Warner told his partner about the bribes he was offered from South Africa. Warner revealed that high-ranking officials of FIFA, South African government, and the South African bid committee were prepared to arrange for $10 million to be paid to CFU to “support the African diaspora.” It was understood that the offer would stand in exchange for a vote for South Africa and not Morocco to host the 2010 World Cup. Warner said that he had accepted the offer and that he would give $1 million of the $10 million total to his co-conspirator.

After the voting process, funds were periodically wired to Warner, according to the indictment on January 2, 2008; January 31, 2008 and March 7, 2008. A high-ranking FIFA official further caused payments of $616,000, $1,600,000, and $7,784,000 – totalling $10 million – to be wired from a FIFA account in Switzerland to a Bank of America correspondent account in New York, for credit to accounts held in the names of CFU and CONCACAF, but controlled by Jack Warner.

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Photo: A file picture dated 06 July 2005 shows Jack Austin Warner of Trinidad and Tobago and President of CONCACAF catching a ball during a photocall in Miami, Florida, USA. EPA/GARY I ROTHSTEIN

Warner has a long laundry list of dubious offences, but has maintained his innocence on a number of occasions, even on Wednesday.

But his reputation precedes him, and he will stop at nothing to manipulate processes to go his way. During South Africa’s bidding process, Warner managed to convince South Africa to allow Nelson Mandela to travel to Trinidad & Tobago, despite Mandela’s doctors advising that it would not be a good idea. The visit was widely reported, although the exact purpose of the visit was never revealed. One can reasonably assume that it was all part of the exchange. A visit from Mandela, arranged by Warner, would be a big coup for him, especially knowing that he would go into politics once his time at FIFA came to an end. The visit was brief and there is no mention of it in the indictment. It’s likely that this trip will always remain a mystery, but the rest is history.

When South Africa’s delegation visited Zurich the day before the vote in May 2004, Chuck Blazer, former fraudster now turned whistle-blower, along with Warner, apparently told South Africa that they’d secured the CONCACAF bloc’s vote. South Africa’s delegation, on the other hand, had allegedly promised the kickbacks for their support.

South Africa went head-to-head with Morocco and won 14-10, and while South Africa were far ahead of Morocco in terms of infrastructure and probably deserved to host it, the allegations are pretty damning, and should be of great concern for all those involved in South African football. DM

Photo: FIFA President Joseph Blatter (R) hands Jabulani, the official ball for the FIFA 2010 World Cup South Africa, to Danny Jordaan (L), managing director of the organization committee, in Cape Town, South Africa, 04 December 2009. Jabulani is produced by German company adidas. EPA/BERND WEISSBROD


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