The secretary general of scandal-racked FIFA – a top lieutenant of the world soccer organization's President Sepp Blatter – reportedly made the $10 million in bank transactions that are at the heart of the stunning federal bribery case.
Jérôme Valcke is the unidentified "high-ranking FIFA official" who U.S. prosecutors say transferred the money in 2008 from FIFA to accounts controlled by FIFA Vice President Jack Warner, The New York Times
reports, citing unnamed law enforcement officials.
The payment is a key piece of last Wednesday's indictment
accusing Warner of taking a bribe in exchange for helping South Africa secure the right to host the 2010 World Cup.
The indictment doesn't say whether the unnamed high-ranking official – whom federal authorities believe is Valcke, according to the Times – knew the money was being used as a bribe.
He's not one of the FIFA officials or marketing executives identified as a co-conspirator in the federal indictment, and hasn't been charged or accused of any wrongdoing.
Valcke and Blatter are the two top officials in FIFA, an organization that has more than $1 billion in the bank and generates billions more each year, the Times reports.
And Valcke's alleged involvement would likely raise questions about what Blatter knew about it, the Times reports.
The charges – unsealed last Wednesday
in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn – along with the arrests at dawn of several high-ranking FIFA officials at a luxury hotel in Zurich, shocked international soccer, which has faced allegations of corruption for years, the Times says.
Danny Jordaan, the chief executive of South Africa’s World Cup bid and the current president of its soccer federation, has said the money wasn't a bribe at all, but instead a payment to a soccer development fund in the Caribbean, the Times reports.
"How could we have paid a bribe for votes four years after we had won the bid?" Jordaan said in an interview with the South African newspaper, the Sunday Independent, according to the Times.
U.S. prosecutors allege the bribery scheme played out over several years.
FIFA announced Monday that "due to the current situation," Valcke, of France, would not attend the opening of the Women’s World Cup in Canada next week. "It is important that he attends to matters at FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich," the organization said in a news release, according to the Times.
In the federal indictment, authorities are looking to prosecute 14 people connected with FIFA for alleged offenses including racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering. Nine are FIFA officials, four are marketing executives from the United States and South America, and one person is an intermediary who allegedly handled illegal payments.
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