Africa

Fifa corruption claims: South Africa 'agreed $10m deal'

Former South African President Thabo Mbeki (L) and Fifa president Sepp Blatter (R) in 2006 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Thabo Mbeki holding the World Cup trophy with Fifa's Sepp Blatter in 2006

An email gives further evidence that then South African President Thabo Mbeki and Sepp Blatter agreed to a $10m deal in 2007, which US prosecutors say was a "bribe" to secure the 2010 World Cup.

Much of the money, the US prosecutors say, landed in the pockets of former Fifa vice-president Jack Warner.

The email, seen by the BBC and obtained by the Sunday Times newspaper in South Africa, is the third item of correspondence setting out details of the payment.

The South African government and the country's football association strongly deny accusations of an illicit deal.

In the correspondence, Jerome Valcke, the secretary-general of Fifa, writes to a South African minister asking "when the transfer can be done" and references both Mr Blatter and Mr Mbeki as having discussed the matter previously.

The South African government insists this was a legitimate payment to promote Caribbean football.

But the Centre of Excellence in the Caribbean, where the money was intended to be spent, is owned by Jack Warner and his wife. Mr Warner is among those facing US charges of bribery, racketeering and money laundering.

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Media captionEd Thomas in Trinidad confronts Jack Warner about what happened to $10m sent from Fifa

Meanwhile cracks are beginning to appear at the South African football body Safa, with former and current figures implicated in the deal accusing each other of betrayal.

At best, the murky Fifa saga suggests a lack of due diligence by the South African government in the $10m payment. At worse, it suggests an illicit deal but the US prosecutors have yet to show that this was the intent and the South African government continues to insist in the strongest of terms, that it never "knowingly" paid a bribe.

But chinks in the armour are beginning to emerge as questions of who knew what when surface. There are also said to be ructions between football bosses past and present and about how this explosive story is being handled by the top names in South African football.

'Betrayed'

The former boss of the South African Football Association, Molefi Oliphant, is clearly rattled about where the mud will stick.

According to one South African Sunday newspaper, he is reported to feel "betrayed" by Danny Jordaan - his successor and the man who led the organising committee for the 2010 World Cup bid - for failing to disclose a letter which was leaked to the press last week.

Although the letter conveyed the same detail contained in a subsequent missive written by Mr Oliphant himself about how the money was to be paid indirectly, it does give some insight into how much feathers are being ruffled at Safa.

In a statement, the football association dismissed any suggestions of impropriety and reminded readers that the purpose of the donation was to pursue a noble goal of promoting football across the African diaspora.

If due diligence had been carried out, they might have spotted that Mr Warner controlled the Centre of Excellence where the money was destined to end up. Sports Minister Fikile Mbalule said last week they weren't dealing with "gangsters" - so why check? Because it is public money, one might venture to suggest.

At the moment, with no concrete proof that a bribe was "knowingly paid", Safa is clinging onto the moral high ground .

It insists that what won the World Cup for South Africa was the lobbying of late President Nelson Mandela.

One has to wonder what democratic South Africa's founding father would make of this controversy, and the shadow it appears to have cast over what was one of the country's proudest moments.

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