Blat­ter’s top aide is sub­ject of in­quiry

FIFA’s sec­re­tary gen­eral is re­port­edly be­hind $10-mil­lion pay­ment.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Kevin Bax­ter kevin.bax­ter@la­times.com

FIFA sent out a sur­pris­ing news re­lease early Mon­day, say­ing that its sec­re­tary gen­eral, Jerome Val­cke, would not be at­tend­ing a women’s World Cup news con­fer­ence Thurs­day in Van­cou­ver, Canada, be­cause he had to at­tend to mat­ters at FIFA’s head­quar­ters in Zurich, Switzer­land.

A few hours later, the New York Times ex­plained what those mat­ters might be, re­port­ing fed­eral au­thor­i­ties be­lieve Val­cke was be­hind the $10 mil­lion in bank trans­ac­tions that are at the cen­ter of in­ter­na­tional soc­cer’s bribery and cor­rup­tion scan­dal.

Last week the Depart­ment of Jus­tice un­sealed a 47count in­dict­ment against nine high-rank­ing soc­cer of­fi­cials with ties to FIFA, the sport’s in­ter­na­tional gov­ern­ing body. Five sports mar­ket­ing ex­ec­u­tives were also charged in a bribery scheme that in­volved kick­backs worth $150 mil­lion. Swiss au­thor­i­ties have seized ev­i­dence and are pur­su­ing their own in­ves­ti­ga­tion in Zurich.

The New York Times said fed­eral of­fi­cials and oth­ers briefed on the case claim Val­cke, FIFA Pres­i­dent Sepp Blat­ter’s top lieu­tenant, is the man iden­ti­fied in the in­dict­ments as a “high-rank­ing FIFA of­fi­cial.” Ac­cord­ing to pros­e­cu­tors, in 2008 that of­fi­cial moved $10 mil­lion from FIFA ac­counts to ones con­trolled by Jack Warner, pres­i­dent of CON­CA­CAF, the re­gional fed­er­a­tion that over­sees soc­cer in North Amer­ica, Cen­tral Amer­ica and the Caribbean.

The of­fi­cials and oth­ers who iden­ti­fied Val­cke spoke to the New York Times on con­di­tion of anonymity, the news­pa­per said, be­cause they are not au­tho­rized to speak about the on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Val­cke was not named in the in­dict­ment and has not been ac­cused of a crime. But if the link proves true, it would take the scan­dal into the high­est reaches of FIFA’s cor­po­rate struc­ture, one step away from Blat­ter, who has de­nied any knowl­edge or in­volve­ment in wrong­do­ing. Blat­ter, is re­port­edly be­ing in­ves­ti­gated separately by Swiss po­lice. The pay­ment to Warner is cen­tral to ac­cu­sa­tions the Trinida­dian soc­cer leader took money is ex­change of help­ing South Africa win the right to stage the 2010 World Cup. The in­dict­ment does not say the un­named FIFA of­fi­cial knew the money was be­ing used as a bribe.

The New York Times said Danny Jor­daan, who di­rected South Africa’s World Cup bid and is now pres­i­dent of the coun­try’s soc­cer fed­er­a­tion, has claimed the money was a le­git­i­mate pay­ment into a soc­cer devel­op­ment fund in the Caribbean.

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