Africa

Fifa crisis: South Africa to probe bribe claims

South Africa supporter blows a vuvuzela prior to the start of the Group F first round 2010 World Cup football match Paraguay vs. New Zealand on June 24, 2010 at Peter Mokaba stadium in Polokwane Image copyright AFP
Image caption South Africa is the only African nation to have hosted the World Cup

An elite police unit in South Africa is to launch a preliminary inquiry into allegations that officials paid bribes to help secure the 2010 World Cup.

The announcement came after an opposition party handed documents to the Hawks unit about the claims of bribery.

Ex-Fifa official Chuck Blazer has admitted in the US that he agreed to take bribes related to the bid.

South African officials have strongly denied that bribes were paid.

The US has launched a wide-ranging criminal case that has engulfed football's world governing body Fifa and led Sepp Blatter to announce his resignation as its president.

An indictment alleges that South Africa paid a $10m (£6.5m) bribe to Fifa officials to secure the 2010 bid, ahead of Morocco.

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Media captionNick Bryant reports on the admissions by former Fifa executive Chuck Blazer that he and others accepted bribes

It also alleges that a senior South African official travelled to Paris to hand over cash in $10,000 stacks - in a hotel room, to an unnamed person working for Jack Warner, the former Fifa vice-president and head of the North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (Concacaf).

Hawks spokesman Brigadier Hangwana Mulaudzi said the US had not asked the South African police to assist with investigations.

'Malicious'

The Hawks had opened its preliminary investigation after being approached by the Freedom Front Plus opposition party, Mr Mulaudzi said, South Africa's Sport24 news site reports.

''The Freedom Front Plus came to us on Tuesday and dropped off some documents demanding that we look at them," he is quoted as saying.

The documents are believed to contain information that could implicate senior South African Football Association (Safa) officials, reports the BBC's Nomsa Maseko from Johannesburg.

Mr Mulaudzi said the documents would be studied and "if there is enough to open a case we will do it", Sport24 reports.

However, he was quoted by the South African government's news agency as saying that no formal investigation had been launched.

"The speculations that have been doing the rounds claiming that Hawks are investigating Safa president Danny Jordaan and other Safa officials are simply malicious, baseless and unfounded," Mr Mulaudzi said.

'Racketeering'

South Africa's Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula said on Wednesday that payments related to the World Cup had been "above board", and no bribes had been paid.

South Africa was proud to have hosted Africa's first World Cup, and would not allow itself to be caught in a battle between the US and Fifa, he said.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Danny Jordaan spearheaded South Africa's bid
Image copyright AFP
Image caption The tournament had a strong African feel to it

South Africa comes out fighting

What will it take to fix Fifa?

Later, the US released a transcript from a 2013 hearing in which Mr Blazer pleaded guilty to 10 charges.

In the transcript, prosecutors refer to Fifa "and its membership or constituent organisation" as a Rico enterprise - a Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organisation.

Mr Blazer says: "Beginning in or around 2004 and continuing through 2011, I and others on the Fifa executive committee agreed to accept bribes in conjunction with the selection of South Africa as the host nation for the 2010 World Cup."

Blazer said one of his co-conspirators received a bribe in Morocco for its bid to host the 1998 tournament, which was eventually awarded to France.

Last week US prosecutors indicted 14 people on charges of bribery, racketeering and money laundering. Four others had already been charged, including Mr Blazer.

The US justice department alleges they accepted bribes and kickbacks estimated at more than $150m over a 24-year period.

How Fifa makes and spends its money

How can Fifa reform itself?

In another development, Mr Warner, who is among those charged, said on Wednesday he had documents linking Fifa officials to the 2010 election in Trinidad and Tobago.

"I will no longer keep secrets for them who actively seek to destroy the country," he said in a paid political broadcast on Wednesday evening.

Mr Warner, who denies charges against him, said he feared for his life, but would reveal everything he knows about the alleged corruption.

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Media captionIn a televised address in Trinidad, Jack Warner said he feared for his life

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