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Safa letter could hold key to $10m World Cup bribe claim

31 May 2015 - 02:05 By MNINAWA NTLOKO, MARVIN MEINTJIES in Zurich, ANDRÉ JURGENS, BARENG BATHO-KORTJAAS and THANDUXOLO JIKA

A letter sent from South Africa to Fifa headquarters "instructing" the world's soccer body to pay $10-million to a Caribbean football union holds the key to the FBI's sensational claim that South Africa bought the right to host the 2010 World Cup.

The Sunday Times has had sight of the letter, dated March 2008, and signed by then South African Football Association president Molefi Oliphant.

In it Oliphant tells Fifa to pay over the money - about R120-million at today's rates - to the Caribbean Football Union.

Oliphant, contacted for comment yesterday, initially wanted to know who had given the letter to the Sunday Times.

He asked that he be called back in 30 minutes as he had just arrived from Zurich and was going into a meeting. After being contacted a second time via SMS, Oliphant called back saying: "It is difficult for me to comment over the phone." He promised to call back to arrange a meeting but never did.

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A Safa insider said the money was intended for a development plan in the Caribbean that had the backing of South Africa at the time.

The latest international Fifa scandal was triggered after Swiss police discreetly raided the five-star Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich at 6am on Wednesday and arrested seven soccer executives ahead of Fifa's annual meeting in the Swiss city.

The scandal went public within hours as the US Justice Department released a 47-count indictment charging several Fifa officials with racketeering, wire fraud and money-laundering conspiracies, among other offences, for allegedly taking part in a "24-year scheme to enrich themselves through the corruption of international soccer".

Swiss prosecutors simultaneously announced a second probe into the bidding process for the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

The US attorney-general, Loretta Lynch, alleged on Wednesday that "high-ranking South African officials" offered a $10-million bribe to help secure the hosting rights for the global showpiece. A second claim was made that a senior South African official had paid a bribe to a relative of former Fifa vice-president Jack Warner at a French hotel. Two South Africans were designated as "co-conspirator #15 and #16".

Her indictment states that in the months before South Africa clinched the hosting rights, Warner claimed that Fifa officials, the South African government and its bid committee were willing to arrange for the country to pay $10-million to the CFU .

The document states that the South Africans were unable to arrange payment directly from government funds.

Arrangements were then made with Fifa officials to instead have the $10-million sent from Fifa - using funds that would otherwise have gone to South Africa to help fund the World Cup.

"In fact, on January 2 2008, January 31 2008 and March 7 2008, a high-ranking Fifa official caused payments of $616000, $1600000, and $7784000 - totalling $10-million - to be wired from a Fifa account," states the indictment.

block_quotes_start Maybe there was an issue of bribes, but that wouldn't be anything new because Fifa is an organisation filled with corruption and bribes block_quotes_end

It went into bank accounts held in the name of CFU and the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football controlled by Warner.

Warner, the document states, diverted a substantial portion of that money for his personal use.

The South African letter was sent three days before the final payment by Fifa was made on March 7. It is unclear if there were other letters authorising the previous two payments to the CFU.

Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula, asked whether the FBI were not confusing the $10-million CFU payment with bribe claims, said: "I am not going to go there, I know where you're going. I have no comment on that. We shall wait for the indictment and are not going to jump to conclusions about anything."

Safa president Danny Jordaan, who cancelled his trip to Zurich on the advice of Luthuli House for political reasons on Thursday, said: "Nobody told me I'm conspirator whatever number. No one spoke to me. I don't know anything about that [except] what I read.

"The so-called money in Paris? That's rubbish, I dismiss it with the contempt it deserves. The other money, the $10-million, that, too, is complete rubbish and we will deal with this matter."

He said he had no idea why the allegations were being made.

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Jordaan was CEO of South Africa's local organising committee for both the 2006 and 2010 World Cup bids. He said yesterday that he was bound by regulations during his time as CEO of the LOC and could not authorise payments of more than R2.5-million.

On Friday in Zurich, Sepp Blatter was re-elected Fifa president and Irvin Khoza, soccer's "Iron Duke", cast South Africa's vote at the Hallenstadion. Khoza was chairman of the 2006 and 2010 bid committees and LOC.

Several former LOC and bid committee members expressed outrage and surprise about the bribery claims.

Tokyo Sexwale, the third man some have tried to put into the frame, was also in Zurich.

Asked about the FBI's approach in this investigation, Sexwale said: "It's important that they should state fully in the public domain what it is they are looking for, instead of releasing whatever information they have piecemeal. It's unfair of them to do that to South Africa and also not having approached government properly.

"My reading of the situation is that there was not even an attempt to consult the government and people are talking about government money.

"But it is most important that people who are innocent must not be dragged into this."

Sexwale said 2010 was "one of the cleanest World Cups".

Former sports minister Makhenkesi Stofile said he only got involved in the organising of the 2010 World Cup when he became a minister in 2004 and had no knowledge of the bidding process, which was eight years earlier.

"This thing of these scandals is nothing new. Maybe there was an issue of bribes, but that wouldn't be anything new because Fifa is an organisation filled with corruption and bribes. But we must not forget that it was important for South Africa to host that tournament and important for the continent as a whole.

"Anyway, the only people who have full knowledge about the whole thing [World Cup bid] was Danny Jordaan, Irvin Khoza and Molefi Oliphant," said Stofile.

Khoza has not spoken since the scandal broke. Repeated attempts to reach him were unsuccessful.

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Former Safa vice-president Chief Mwelo Nonkonyana said: "I won't know a lot, but people who were pivotal in it was Danny Jordaan, chairman of the committee Dr Irvin Khoza and to some extent Oliphant as the president of Safa then. They are the only ones who can shed some light on that thing."

Former finance minister Trevor Manuel was offended by the bribery allegations.

"I am not aware of any request for a bribe of any size. For the 20 years I served as a cabinet minister, 13 of which was as finance minister, I can say without fear of contradiction that no person ever approached me for a bribe; nor, as it happens, did I ever approach any individual or company for any bribe," he said.

Manuel, who was finance minister at the time, did not serve on the bid committee or LOC.

It now appears as if a stand-off between the South African government and the US is brewing, with South African officials questioning the manner in which the country was dragged into the Fifa scandal.

It appears that both the government and local law enforcement agencies were kept in the dark about the FBI investigation.

Asked whether the FBI has contacted authorities in South Africa, Mbalula said: "At the moment there hasn't been any contact. I've never heard of a state investigating another state without following protocols."

On Friday, the South African government scrambled to do damage control and all queries were diverted to Mbalula.

"We have asked [the Department of International Relations] to contact and engage the Americans to tell us who of our people is implicated and furnish us with details of how we are implicated as a country.

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"They did not pre-warn anybody about this. Arrests could happen any time, anywhere. I can't speak about those processes now.

"For us in the main, our interest is our national integrity. We have to preserve South Africa's image."

Mbalula said the evidence the Americans purport to have did not mention anything about the South African government transferring money.

" We are not a hostile nation to America and are not standing in their way of fighting corruption."

While the Department of International Relations has been asked to engage with the Americans for more detail on the South African leg of the scandal, spokesman Clayson Monyela said it was premature to say the bribery scandal had the potential to sour diplomatic relations with the US.

"We need to let this thing be taken to its logical conclusion," he said.

"If there is a conviction then we can deal with the other elements, including reputational damage and how we handle that going forward," said Monyela.

The Hawks, the Department of Justice and the State Security Agency have all confirmed they were not contacted during the course of the FBI investigation.

sub_head_start Leading players in SA's '$10m cup bid' sub_head_end

Molefi Oliphant

He was president of the South African Football Association in 2004 when South Africa won the bid to host the 2010 World Cup. By virtue of his position Oliphant was one of the senior officials in the local organising committee.

In 2011 President Jacob Zuma conferred the Order of Ikhamanga in Gold to Oliphant for his role in ensuring that South Africa won the bid.

Irvin Khoza

He served as the vice-president of Safa in 2004 and was the chairman of the Fifa World Cup organising committee. He also played a key role in securing the hosting of the 2010 World Cup. Like Oliphant, he was awarded the Order of Ikhamanga in Gold by Zuma in 2011.

Danny Jordaan

The current Safa president, he was the chief executive officer of South Africa's bids to host both the 2006 and 2010 world cups. Jordaan and his South African team lost the 2006 bid to Germany. He too received the Order of Ikhamanga in Gold in 2011. Jordaan, Oliphant and Khoza were each given a R7.4-million bonus for their roles in bringing the World Cup to South Africa.

Tokyo Sexwale

In 2004 the businessman and former politician was a board member of the local organising committee. According to a speech made by Khoza at the University of the Witwatersrand in July 2009, Sexwale played a crucial role in ensuring that former president Nelson Mandela travelled to Trinidad on April 29 2004. At the time, Khoza said, South Africa needed to secure the vote of Warner, who insisted that Mandela be brought to Trinidad.

But Mandela's doctors said the state of the Nobel laureate's health would not allow him to travel. However, Sexwale managed to get Mandela to fly to Trinidad - which marked a turning point in South Africa's bid. A month later it successfully secured the right to host the World Cup.

sub_head_start SA and the World Cup sub_head_end

  • After years of lobbying, South Africa suffered a heartbreaking blow when it narrowly missed out on hosting the 2006 Soccer World Cup.
  • In July 2000, Charles Dempsey dramatically abstained from casting the Oceania soccer federation's vote for the 2006 event, which South Africa lost to Germany by a single vote. Dempsey, who died in 2008, at the time said he abstained due to "intolerable pressure" from supporters of the bids by the two countries.
  • Gutted, South African officials went back to the drawing board and bid again in 2002.
  • Two years later, in May 2004, Fifa head Sepp Blatter revealed that South Africa had convinced Fifa officials, who this time voted that this country would host the world's biggest sporting tournament - the first time it would be held in Africa.

- Additional reporting by Sabelo Skiti

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