The South African government has reiterated that no bribes were offered in return for votes during the bidding process for the 2010 World Cup.
United States authorities alleged that $10million was paid as a bribe to secure the showpiece event, with the New York Times reporting FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke was responsible for transferring the funds to CONCACAF – then led by the indicted Jack Warner.
The allegations – which came as part of a wider operation that saw 14 people, including nine past and present FIFA officials, indicted for racketeering, conspiracy and corruption – were met with a strong rebuttal from South Africa’s minister for sport and recreation, Fikile Mbalula.
FIFA also released a statement on Tuesday denying that Valcke had any involvement in the administration of the payment for a project intended to “support the African diaspora in Caribbean countries as part of the World Cup legacy.”
A letter alleged to be from the South African Football Association (SAFA) emerged later on Tuesday that appeared to suggest Valcke was aware of the transaction.
Mbalala has now re-affirmed his stance, saying at a news conference: “I can today unequivocally state that this payment was not a bribe. The fact that a payment of $10million for an approved project was paid does not equate to a bribe.
“This allocation of payment has always been a football matter, between FIFA and the country’s football association and we continue to drive programmes on the continent with FIFA and SAFA, through the Diaspora.
“This is not a bribe but an above-board payment … we also can’t understand why the alleged bribe was paid after voting for the hosting rights was already completed.
“We wonder why would anyone doubt our ability to secure the rights to host a tournament based on our hard work. We should not allow these allegations to put into doubt South Africa’s capability to host World Cup events.
“We frown upon the allegations that suggest South Africa has paid a bribe. Payment made for approved projects can never be construed as bribery. Any insinuation to the contrary will be met with a rebuke.
“We still need the US authorities to share with us the basis for their allegations. Those who allege should prove their allegations. We refuse to be caught up in a battle between the US authorities and FIFA. We do not intend to speak for FIFA – FIFA must speak for itself.”
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