FIFA bank account could be Sepp Blatter's undoing
Zurich: The biggest threat to Sepp Blatter's future as FIFA president may be the disclosure by the US justice department's corruption indictment that World Cup bribes were channelled via a FIFA bank account.
A demonstrator disguised as FIFA president Sepp Blatter takes part in a protest against the condition of workers in Qatar, on the sidelines of the 65th FIFA Congress yesterday in Zurich. Pic/AFP
The 164-page indictment states disgraced former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner agreed a bribe of $10million with South African bid officials to vote for the 2010 World Cup.
Significantly, the cash was transferred via a FIFA bank account in Switzerland, on the authority of an unnamed "high-ranking FIFA official" to an American bank account controlled by Warner.
Even more damning is the indictment's statement that the money was FIFA "funds that would otherwise have gone from FIFA to South Africa to support the World Cup".
Corruption at its heart
The indictment's contents in effect suggest that corruption went to the very heart of FIFA. An unnamed senior South American FIFA member was also involved in the bribes, says the indictment.
FIFA would not respond to the contents of the indictment. A spokesman said via email: "Please understand that we cannot comment on investigations that are ongoing."
Warner, who is now on bail in Trinidad facing extradition to the USA, had agreed to pay $1million of the $10million to his aide and fellow FIFA member Chuck Blazer.
The indictment says Warner was offered $1million by South Africa's rival bid Morocco but Blazer "learned from Jack Warner that high-ranking officials of FIFA, the South African government, and the South African bid committee, were prepared to arrange for the government of South Africa to pay $10million to 'support the African diaspora'.
Blazer "understood the offer to be in exchange for World Cup votes" but later "learnt that the South Africans were unable to arrange for the payment to be made directly from government funds". Blazer was to personally benefit to the tune of $1million.
The indictment adds: "Arrangements were thereafter made with FIFA officials to instead have the $10million sent from FIFA — using funds that would otherwise have gone from FIFA to South Africa to support the World Cup — to CFU (Caribbean Football Union).
In fact, on January 2, 2008, January 31, 2008 and March 7, 2008, a high-ranking FIFA official caused payments... totalling $10million — to be wired from a FIFA account in Switzerland to a Bank of America correspondent account in New York... controlled by Jack Warner."
Blazer has pleaded guilty to 10 criminal charges. Warner has denied any wrongdoing.
There are only two candidates in this year's FIFA presidential race: the beleaguered Sepp Blatter, who is seeking a fifth term in office and his only challenger Prince Ali bin al Hussein, a FIFA vice president from Jordan. One of them is set to be anointed today at under Article 27 of the governing body's statutes which states that:
> The president will be elected by secret ballot during the FIFA congress for a period of four years.
> The electoral body is composed of the 209 federation members.
> For a win in the first round of voting, a candidate must secure two-thirds of the votes of voting members present.
> Should a second round vote be necessary, a simple majority of valid votes will suffice.