/ 29 May 2015

Fifa: Who in SA did ‘dirty’ Cup deal?

Sepp Blatter and Danny Jordaan during a media briefing at Southern Sun Hotel on May 21 2011 in Johannesburg.
Sepp Blatter and Danny Jordaan during a media briefing at Southern Sun Hotel on May 21 2011 in Johannesburg.

The United States indictment that dropped a bombshell on organised football worldwide this week withholds as much as it gives.

Bank transfers are accounted to the dollar; the alleged conspiracies as to which of the 14 accused would benefit from which transaction are recounted in detail. 

Frustratingly, however, the “co-conspirators” not being charged – at least, not yet – remain unnamed. They are simply referred to as “co-conspirator #1” to “co-conspirator #25”.

Two of the numbered individuals are South African: #15, who allegedly handed a suitcase stuffed with cash to a relative of Caribbean football boss Jack Warner in a Paris hotel room, and #16, who was central to the alleged agreement to pay Warner and two others $10million (R120-million at today’s rates) to vote for South Africa to host the 2010 World Cup.

The implications are as dire for South Africa as they are for the individuals concerned. The country stands accused on the international stage of buying one of its great post-apartheid victories and “the government” is cited as having been party to the alleged bribe agreement, or at least the way it was initially conceived.

There are implications, too, for those who led the South African bid – in particular Danny Jordaan, its chief executive, and Irvin Khoza, its chairperson. By dint of their positions the buck stops with them, regardless of whether they turn out to be the numbered individuals.

Jordaan did not answer his phone or respond to messages by the time of going to print. Khoza’s receptionist said he was out of the country and unavailable for comment.

Jordaan was sworn in on Thursday as the mayor of Nelson Mandela Bay, where the ANC had imposed him as a Mr Fixit over the objections of opposition parties and even some local ANC officials. 

Later in the day, he was reportedly due to fly to Zurich for the elective congress of Fifa, world football’s governing body.

The unnamed South Africans
The two numbered individuals, #15 and #16, may have cause to fear US law that often has extraterritorial reach. The fact was driven home when Swiss police dramatically arrested seven Fifa officials in Zurich on Wednesday at the behest of the US justice department.

But back to their identities: although the US indictment does not name the two, it claims that each was “a high-ranking official of the [unsuccessful] 2006 South Africa World Cup bid committee, and the [successful] 2010 South Africa World Cup bid committee and [the] local organising committee”.

This narrows the field of possible “suspects” considerably to individuals who were senior members, and presumably board members, of all three committees. 

The 2006 bid appears not to have been pursued via a registered entity and its members’ names were not immediately available this week. But compare who served on both the 2010 bid company and the local organising committee boards – and only eight men are left standing.

First, a caveat: the fact that “co-conspirators” #15 and #16 are likely among the eight South African officials named below does not mean that any of them are guilty. The information is from a US indictment and no charge has been proven. 

The US authorities may also have got the positions wrong. And, certainly, not all eight are guilty.

The men left standing
The eight are: Jordaan, Khoza, Naspers chairperson Koos Bekker, sports promoter Selwyn Nathan, lawyer and ENSafrica chairperson Michael Katz, former South African Football Association (Safa) chief executive Raymond Hack, Kaizer Chiefs chairperson Kaizer Motaung and former Safa president Molefi Oliphant. 

Oliphant declined to comment, saying the government had already done so. Katz said he knew nothing about the alleged bribes.

Nathan said he was “proud and happy” to have contributed to the successful bid but that he had not been involved in negotiations or the vote and knew of nothing untoward. 

And Hack said: “I met Jack Warner once in my life. He came to see Madiba when South Africa was playing a game. I didn’t even know who he was.” Doubting the claim, he said that the local organising committee had been “strictly, strictly audited”.

AmaBhungane could not immediately reach Motaung or Bekker, who an assistant said was abroad.

The US indictment implicates the two numbered South Africans separately. In the first, undated instance, it alleges that Warner sent a relative to Paris to “accept a briefcase containing bundles of US currency in $10 000 stacks in a hotel room from co-conspirator #15”, the South African official. 

Hours later, the relative was back on a flight to Trinidad and Tobago, where he allegedly handed the briefcase to Warner.

The second instance is outlined in more detail. The indictment alleges that, in the months before the May 2004 vote, Warner and “co-conspirator #1” flew to Morocco, where Warner allegedly accepted a $1-million offer to vote for that country.

From the context it is clear that co-conspirator #1 was Chuck Blazer, the longtime Fifa executive member and general secretary of Concacaf, the North and Central American and Caribbean football confederation. 

Blazer was quietly convicted in 2013 after reaching a plea bargain and subsequently helped US investigators.

The indictment alleges that, after the Moroccan bribe offer, Blazer learned of a change of plan. 

“High-ranking officials of Fifa, the South African government and the South African bid committee, including co-conspirator #16, were prepared to arrange for the government of South Africa to pay $10million to CFU to ‘support the African diaspora’.”

The CFU is the Caribbean Football Union, where Warner held sway.

Blazer “understood the offer to be in exchange for the agreement” that he, Warner and an unnamed senior South American football official on the Fifa executive would vote for South Africa to host the World Cup.

Although the money was to be paid to the CFU in name, Warner and his associates were the intended recipients. 

According to the indictment: “Warner indicated that he had accepted the offer and told [Blazer] that he would give a $1-million portion of the $10-million payment to [Blazer].”

All three allegedly voted for South Africa. Afterwards, Blazer “periodically asked Warner” about the payment. 

Blazer then learned that “the South Africans were unable to arrange for the payment to be made directly from government funds”.

The indictment then describes a classic money-laundering exercise: “Arrangements were thereafter made with Fifa officials to instead have the $10?million sent from Fifa – using funds that would otherwise have gone from Fifa to South Africa to support the World Cup – to CFU.”

The indictment details how three tranches totalling $10-million were transferred from Fifa to the CFU and Concacaf accounts controlled by Warner in early 2008. 

Warner allegedly diverted “a substantial portion of the funds” for his personal use.

Warner allegedly then paid three amounts totalling about $750 000 to Blazer “in partial payment of the $1-million” he had promised him.

Significantly, the indictment gives details of the Fifa and onwards transfers, suggesting bank records would be among the evidence presented. 

The account is also corroborated by the separate charge sheet to which Blazer pleaded guilty.

Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula on Thursday insisted that the allegations are untrue, given that the local organising committee’s financial records had been audited by the auditor general and outside auditors, and had been given unqualified statements.

See “Grow some balls, probe complicity

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The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for our stories, activities and funding sources.