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Fifa grants are being probed as investigation drags on

Fifa grants are being probed as investigation drags on

The investigations into Fifa’s alleged racketeering and money laundering continues and the first anonymous source has spoken out. Most notably, the unnamed source says South African officials aren’t co-operating, but that’s probably because they just didn’t get the memo. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.

Behold! The first phantom source in what will surely be many as the investigation around Fifa’s racketeering continues to rumble on has spoken. In an interview with Reuters, a source who has their finger on the pulse of the investigation shed some light into how proceedings are coming along.

The source’s revelations aren’t exactly new and, for anyone with even an ounce of logic, they are the logical next steps into the ongoing investigation into Fifa’s alleged dubious dealings. Swiss authorities have started analysing development grants made by Fifa itself as part of the ongoing investigation. How money was spent and whether any documents were falsified is at the centre of the investigation. These grants usually go to national soccer associations who stand to benefit from new facilities, like pitches, to enhance their training programmes.

You can bet your bottom dollar that one of those “grants” being investigated is the $10 million grant the South African Football Federation (Safa) requested to be paid over (by Fifa) to Jack Warner, he of the dubious dealings in the Caribbean. Notably, the unnamed source said that Safa are not co-operating with the authorities. That contradicts South Africa’s previous standing where officials insisted that if the FBI and other authorities wanted to probe them, they will be ready. But, if South African officials are to be believed, they probably just didn’t get the memo requesting their co-operation. It took South Africa’s sports ministry almost two weeks to read the US department of justice indictment which was published on the internet, so don’t expect movement form their side any time soon.

We already know the US indictment found Warner had used at least part of the $10 million paid to CONCACAF himself. Now, information technology specialists in Switzerland are analysing more than one terabyte’s worth of data seized from Fifa HQ in a raid back in May. These internal records, mostly in digital form, came from the offices of Fifa’s president Sepp Blatter, secretary general Jérôme Valcke and finance and administrative chief Markus Kattner, among others. Almost everything in Valcke’s office had been taken. No surprise there, since his name was on a letter, written by Safa officials, which instructed Fifa to make the payment to Warner in 2008.

But it’s not just South Africa who are under scrutiny. From 1999-2014, Fifa poured $2 billion into developmental grants. It has also committed to spending a further $900 million on these projects from 2015-2018. Most of this money goes straight to regional federations and national soccer groups across the globe. Smaller countries and islands often receive far more in grants than established countries, something which theoretically makes sense. A country like Germany or England, for example, has its own revenue sources for funding development, while smaller nations simply do not have the financial power. However, the lopsided funding schemes have led to allegations suggesting Blatter supports these minnows in order to court their support for him and in order to remain in power in soccer’s top job. With the one country, one vote system, wooing over smaller countries with the promise of development funds is something many believe is at the centre of the corruption scandal.

In other cases, cash-for-votes, particularly for hosting tournaments and in order to receive broadcasting and marketing rights, is also being investigated. South Africa falls into the first category of “cash-for-votes” (allegedly) but so far, no South African officials have been charged. Considering the US say they have evidence that the so-called Diaspora Grant was used dubiously, it shouldn’t take much probing for Swiss authorities to come to the same conclusion.

It has now been almost a month since the news first broke and it’s been almost a month since Chuck Blazer’s testimony was unsealed, the same testimony in which he admits to having knowledge of a bribe ahead of voting for the country to host the 2010 World Cup. Warner threatened to unleash an “avalanche of evidence” over two weeks ago, but nothing has come of that yet.

It seems increasingly clear this investigation is not going to move forward until authorities are absolutely sure they have all their ducks in a row. The arrest of a number of high-ranking officials and the subsequent raids were conveniently timed for when investigators knew most of the people they were looking for were all going to be in one place. The next time a big group of important Fifa people will be together will be on 20 July 2015, when an extraordinary elective Congress takes place. Who knows what might happen then. DM

Photo:  File picture dated 04 October 2013 of FIFA President Joseph Blatter following a FIFA Executive Committee meeting in Zurich, Switzerland. EPA/ENNIO LEANZA

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