South Africa say $10 million payment was above board

Fikile Mbalula

The South African sports minister has insisted that the $10 million that US authorities allege was a bribe paid to host the 2010 World Cup was a fully-approved payment to support football among the “African diaspora” in the Caribbean.

Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula launched a passionate defence of South Africa’s hosting of the tournament, which is widely cherished as a moment of huge national pride.

“The fact that a payment of $10 million was made to an approved programme above board does not equate to bribery,” he said. “Those who allege should prove their allegations.”

FIFA president Sepp Blatter quit on Tuesday just days after being re-elected to a fifth term amid an FBI corruption investigation alleging that millions of dollars of bribes were paid for the right to hold the tournament.

“We refuse to be caught up in a battle of the United States authorities and FIFA,” Mbalula told a press conference in Johannesburg.

“We have never been spokespersons for FIFA and don’t intend to speak on behalf of FIFA.

“Our purpose and intent is to ensure that we respond to the allegations levelled at our country, government and its citizens.

“We therefore wish to categorically deny that our country and government have bribed anyone to secure the rights to the 2010 FIFA World Cup.”

Meanwhile Interpol have put disgraced FIFA executive members Jack Warner and Nicolas Leoz on their most wanted list and issued an international alert.

Four heads of sports marketing companies have also been put on the list. All six are wanted by US authorities investigating more than $150 million (135 million euros) of bribes paid to football officials.

Warner, a former FIFA vice president, is in Trinidad and Tobago. Leoz, an executive member, is reportedly under house arrest in his native Paraguay.

“At the request of US authorities … international wanted persons alerts have been issued for two former FIFA officials and four corporate executives for charges including racketeering, conspiracy and corruption,” the Lyon-based international police body said in a statement.

Three of the sports marketing bosses are Argentine nationals, Alejandro Burzac and Hugo and Mariano Jinkis.

The other is Brazilian national Jose Margulies — also known as Jose Lazaro, according to Interpol.

Interpol stressed that the so-called “red notice” issued against the six was not an international arrest warrant and it cannot force national authorities to hold the suspects.

The publication of the red notices came a day after the spectacular resignation of FIFA boss Sepp Blatter as the New York Times reported the 79-year-old was the focus of an FBI corruption probe.

ABC News also said Blatter was the subject of an investigation, which it said was part of the larger probe that led to the arrest of seven FIFA officials in a luxury Swiss hotel.

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