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FIFA scandal investigation goes global

By Agence France-Presse in New York | China Daily | Updated: 2015-06-06 08:11

From the Americas to Australia, more evidence of collusion and corruption is pouring in

The FIFA corruption scandal escalated on Thursday as one suspect told of World Cup bribes and another promised to reveal an "avalanche" of secrets - including some about FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

The storm spread around the globe with South African police opening an investigation into claims that money was paid to secure the 2010 World Cup.

 FIFA scandal investigation goes global

Former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner holds a copy of a check at a political rally in Marabella, Trinidad and Tobago on Wednesday. Warner made a televised address, saying he will prove a link between soccer's governing body and the Trinidad and Tobago election in 2010. Warner said he has documents that link FIFA officials, including embattled president Sepp Blatter, to the election. Anthony Harris / AP

Police are also looking into Australia's bid for the 2022 World Cup, while in Venezuela investigators raided the country's soccer headquarters looking for evidence against a FIFA official held in the scandal.

Following Blatter's resignation on Tuesday, focus has shifted to the US investigation that led to seven FIFA officials being arrested last week in Zurich.

Evidence given by whistleblower Chuck Blazer to US investigators told of attempts to buy the 1998 and 2010 World Cups hosted by France and South Africa respectively.

Now battling cancer in hospital, the disgraced former North American soccer supremo said in testimony released by prosecutors that FIFA executives conspired to accept bribes during bidding for the 1998 and 2010 events.

Blazer saw bribe given

Blazer has admitted to charges related to his leadership of the North and Central American body CONCACAF and membership of FIFA's executive committee.

Under a plea deal with US prosecutors, the 70-year-old wore a hidden microphone and recorded conversations with other FIFA officials. None of the other suspects are named.

"Among other things, I agreed with other persons in or around 1992 to facilitate the acceptance of a bribe in conjunction with the selection of the host nation for the 1998 World Cup," Blazer said in his plea.

France beat Morocco in the bidding to stage that tournament.

A document detailing the charges says that Blazer was present when a co-conspirator accepted a bribe in Morocco.

A former head of France's 1998 bid committee, Jacques Lambert, insisted "no irregularities" were committed by its officials.

Lambert said he had been told that disgraced official Jack Warner promised to back France's bid but voted for Morocco.

Blazer went on to admit that he and "others on the FIFA executive committee" agreed to accept bribes in conjunction with the selection of South Africa to host the World Cup in 2010.

South African officials have angrily denied allegations by US investigators that they paid $10 million in bribes in 2008 to secure the rights.

The money allegedly went to Warner, a former FIFA vice-president and another former CONCACAF head.

Warner was suspended by the world body in 2011 for corruption.

He promised on Wednesday in his native Trinidad and Tobago to tell an "avalanche" of secrets.

"I reasonably and surely fear for my life," he declared in a paid political broadcast and later added that "not even death will stop the avalanche that is coming."

Warner said he had a file which "deals with my knowledge of international transactions at FIFA, including its president Mr Sepp Blatter and Trinidad and Tobago's prime minister."

Caracas raid

Reports say US investigators believe FIFA secretary-general Jerome Valcke authorized the transfer. But Valcke, who was effectively Blatter's right-hand man, insists that he had nothing to do with it.

Warner is one of 14 soccer officials and sports marketing officials charged over more than $150 million in bribes.

A special South African police unit said on Thursday it was looking into the bribery claims.

Venezuelan prosecutors raided the Caracas headquarters of the country's soccer federation, whose leader Rafael Esquivel is one of seven FIFA officials held in Switzerland.

In conjunction with the US inquiry, Swiss prosecutors are looking into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments to Russia and Qatar.

And Australian police said they were now looking into corruption claims around Australia's failed 2022 bid.

Amid doubts after Blatter's resignation, the Asian Football Confederation strongly backed Qatar's big-spending preparations for 2022.

"The whole Asian soccer community stands with Qatar," said an AFC statement.

Later on Thursday, FIFA revealed a $5 million payment to the Football Association of Ireland after Thierry Henry's hand ball stopped Ireland from qualifying for the 2010 World Cup at the expense of France.

Details of the deal first emerged in an interview FAI chief executive John Delaney gave to RTE Radio 1 on Thursday.

"We felt we had a legal case against FIFA because of how the World Cup playoff hadn't worked out for us with the Henry hand ball," Delaney said.

Blatter also held talks with the head of the governing body's audit and compliance committee on "comprehensive reform" for the organization.

Blatter will not attend next week's International Olympic Committee meeting in Lausanne, world soccer's governing body announced on Friday.

(China Daily 06/06/2015 page11)

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