When U.S. authorities announced last week that they had indicted a group of senior FIFA officials on allegations of corruption, they left one big mystery: They said a "high-ranking FIFA official" had transferred $10 million to an account controlled by former CONCACAF President Jack Warner. That payment was allegedly part of a bribe to help South Africa secure the right to host the 2010 World Cup.
Last night, The New York Times unraveled the mystery, quoting U.S. and other officials as saying t the unnamed FIFA official was the organization's secretary-general, Jérôme Valcke.
While Valcke was not one of the officials arrested or charged, the revelation brings the bribery scandal closer to FIFA's longtime President Sepp Blatter, because Valcke is Blatter's top lieutenant.
The New York Times reports:
"Mr. Valcke, who said in a brief email that he had not authorized the payment and did not have the power to do so, has not been charged or accused of wrongdoing.
"Mr. Valcke and Mr. 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. Mr. Valcke's involvement is sure to raise more questions about what Mr. Blatter knew about the money transfer. The officials and others who identified Mr. Valcke spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation.
"Mr. Valcke's statement that he did not authorize the wire transfer does not directly address whether he was involved. The indictment says the unidentified official 'caused' the payments to be made. And a spokeswoman for FIFA, Delia Fischer, said the chairman of the finance committee at the time, Julio Grondona, authorized the payment. Mr. Grondona died last year. Ms. Fischer said the payment was 'executed in accordance with the Organization Regulations.'
"Those regulations say the secretary general is responsible for maintaining the organization's accounts and has the authority to make transactions."
Despite the scandal, FIFA re-elected Blatter to his fifth term as president last week.
During his victory speech, Blatter promised change. As we reported:
" 'We need to recover our good name and we'll start tomorrow morning with this goal in mind,' he said in French. However, FIFA does not need a 'revolution,' he said. It needs an 'evolution.' "