WATCH: Just days after winning a fifth term as FIFA’s president, Sepp Blatter announced he’s stepping down. As Jackson Proskow reports, the bribery investigation is getting even closer to the man who has spent 40 years with soccer’s governing body.
Sepp Blatter is stepping down as the head of world soccer, as allegations of fraud, bribery and money laundering are inching ever closer to the top of soccer’s international governing body.
The FIFA president’s announcement that he’s resigning, just days after being elected to a fifth term on Friday, comes as investigators delve deeper into a corruption scandal involving FIFA officials and marketing executives. He said he will remain at the helm until a new election can be held.
WATCH: Long-time FIFA President Sepp Blatter called it quits Tuesday – just days after getting reelected at the 65th FIFA Congress.
ABC News reported Tuesday afternoon the FBI and U.S. prosecutors are now extending their investigation to include Blatter.
The 79-year-old was reelected just three days after the U.S. Department of Justice indicted nine FIFA officials and five marketing executives with a total of 47 counts related to corruption in the bidding processes for hosting the men’s World Cup — one of the world’s most-watched and highest profile sporting events — and other tournaments.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch accused FIFA of “rampant, systemic and deep-rooted” corruption. Her indictment prompted Swiss authorities to announce a new investigation into the bidding processes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup championships, to be held in Russia and Qatar respectively.
While Blatter was set to travel to Vancouver for the July 5 final match of the Women’s World Cup, a FIFA spokesperson told Global News earlier Tuesday, his resignation follows reports linking FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke to a $10-million payment from South Africa, allegedly a bribe for that country’s successful 2004 bid to host the 2010 men’s World Cup.
Valcke, seen as Blatter’s right-hand man, was also due to visit Canada for the opening of the Women’s World Cup, but FIFA said Monday he would not be attending.
“It is important that he attends to matters at FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich,” BBC reported a statement from FIFA saying.
FIFA’s executive committee appointed Valcke to the position in 2007 — 10 months after he was found guilty of lying to credit card giants VISA and MasterCard who were both bidding to sponsor the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and the 2014 tournament in Brazil and Blatter removed him as FIFA’s marketing director as a result of the ruling.
The New York Times reported Monday U.S. law enforcement officials believe Valcke transferred the money in 2008 to accounts controlled by Jack Warner, the former CONCACAF president and FIFA vice-president who faces corruption charges in the U.S. The report cited unidentified law enforcement officials.
The New York Times, citing unnamed U.S. officials, reported Valcke “is the unidentified ‘high-ranking FIFA official’ who prosecutors say transferred $10 million in 2008 from FIFA to accounts controlled by another soccer official, Jack Warner.”
Warner, the former vice president of FIFA and the former president of CONCACAF, the governing body for soccer in North and Central America and the Caribbean, was among those charged last week.
The indictment refers to an unnamed “FIFA executive committee member” as “Co-Conspirator #1” and Warner’s alleged cohort in this particular scheme.
FIFA rebuffed the claim Valcke was involved in the $10-million payment from South Africa that the U.S. Department of Justice alleges was a bribe for voting for South Africa over Morocco to host the 2010 tournament.
FIFA, in a statement, claimed the $10-million payment, made in 2008, was to “support the African diaspora in Caribbean countries as part of the World Cup legacy.
And, South African Football Association (SAFA) President Danny Jordaan denied paying any sort of bribe to FIFA officials, the Agence France-Presse reported.
But The Guardian reportedly viewed a March 2008 letter to Valcke from SAFA President Molefi Oliphant indicating $10 million be transferred to Warner to oversee the “Diaspora Legacy Programme” himself.
The letter reads:
SAFA therefore confirms that:
1. FIFA shall withhold US$10 million from the Organising Committee’s future operational budget funding in order to finance the Diaspora Legacy Programme, thereby reducing the Organising Committee’s overall budget from $US 423 million to US$ 413 million.
2. The Diaspora Legacy Programme shall be administered and implemented by the President of CONCACAF who shall act as the fiduciary of the Diaspora Legacy Programme Fund of US$ 10 million.
The U.S. indictment reads: “WARNER indicated that he had accepted the offer and told Co-Conspirator #1 that he would give a S1 million portion of the $10 million payment to Co-Conspirator #1.”
According to the indictment, three payments in early 2008 were “wired from a FIFA account in Switzerland to a Bank of America correspondent account in New York, New York, for credit to accounts held in the names of CFU and CONCACAF, but controlled by the defendant Jack Warner, at a Republic Bank in Trinidad and Tobago.”
The indictment went on to allege Warner “caused a substantial portion of the funds to be diverted for his personal use.”
The $10-million in question is less than 10 per cent of the $150 million in bribes and kickbacks over the course of 20 years.
The indictments prompted both Canada and the U.S. to join other countries in voting for Prince Ali bin al-Hussein for president over Blatter.
With files from The Associated Press
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