FIFA said on Tuesday that secretary general Jerome Valcke was not involved in the $10 million payment mentioned in the U.S. corruption probe engulfing soccer’s world governing body.
FIFA said the payment was approved in 2007 by Julio Grondona, the former chairman of the finance committee who died last year.
The FIFA statement follows a New York Times report that American law enforcement officials believe Valcke transferred the money in 2008 to accounts controlled by Jack Warner, the former CONCACAF president and FIFA vice president who faces corruption charges in the U.S. The report cited unidentified law enforcement officials.
American investigators believe the money was paid as a bribe in exchange for Warner and others voting to give the 2010 World Cup to South Africa.
FIFA described the payment as part of the South African government’s “project to support the African diaspora in Caribbean countries as part of the World Cup legacy.”
FIFA said neither Valcke “nor any other member of FIFA’s senior management were involved in the initiation, approval and implementation” of the project.
It said the payments were authorized by Grondona “in accordance with the organization regulations of FIFA.”
Grondona, of Argentina, served as a member of FIFA’s executive committee for 26 years. He was a senior FIFA vice president when he died last year at the age of 82.
The $10 million payment is at the heart of a probe by the U.S. Department of Justice that led to seven FIFA members being arrested last week and a total of 14 people named in a racketeering indictment accusing soccer officials of accepting more than $150 million in bribes.
Sepp Blatter, who won re-election Friday for a fifth term as FIFA president despite the scandal, denied being the unidentified high-ranking official named in the indictment as having “caused” the payment.
“Definitely that is not me,” Blatter said at a news conference Saturday.
Former South African President Thabo Mbeki on Monday denied his government paid bribes to secure the World Cup. Danny Jordaan, the bid chief for the 2010 tournament, told a South African newspaper that the money was sent to Warner’s regional confederation to help with soccer development in the Caribbean.
FIFA announced Monday that Valcke had canceled his planned trip to attend the opening of the Women’s World Cup in Canada on Saturday “due to the current situation.”