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South Africa denies World Cup bribe

South Africa has denied paying a $10m bribe to secure the 2010 World Cup, in the wake of a US inquiry into corruption at world football body Fifa.

Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula
Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula

Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula said the money in question was above board and intended to support football in the African diaspora in the Caribbean.

The Fifa scandal erupted last week when US prosecutors indicted 14 people.

On Tuesday, president Sepp Blatter said he was to step down, just days after he had been re-elected for a fifth term.

Of the 14 people indicted by the US on charges of racketeering and money laundering, seven were senior Fifa officials, including two vice-presidents. The seven were arrested in Switzerland as they awaited the Fifa congress that re-elected Mr Blatter and are currently awaiting extradition to the US.

The US justice department alleges the 14 accepted bribes and kickbacks estimated at more than $150m (£97m) over a 24-year period.

US officials quoted in the New York Times also said on Tuesday that Mr Blatter, 79, was under investigation as part of the inquiry. They said they hoped some of the Fifa figures charged would help to build a case against him.

Interpol alerts

US officials allege South Africa paid a $10m bribe in exchange for support for its 2010 World Cup bid from former Fifa vice-president Jack Warner and several other members of the North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (Concacaf).

But in a press conference on Wednesday, Mr Mbalula said South Africa “categorically denied” the allegation, adding that the money went towards an approved programme to help the development of football in the Caribbean.

The money went into a fund controlled by Mr Warner.

In a passionate defence of South Africa’s integrity, Mr Mbalula railed against those who sought to be “world policemen”, adding “we believe in multilateralism not unilateralism”.

He added: “It is for the British and the Americans to fight their battles and… we’ll never be part of the vested interests. We have fought colonialism and defeated it and we still fight imperialism and we will fight it whenever it manifests itself.”

Separately, Interpol issued a wanted persons alert for two former Fifa officials, including Jack Warner, as well as four corporate executives. All six were on the list of US indictments last week.

Announcing his resignation on Tuesday, Sepp Blatter said it appeared the mandate he had been given in last Friday’s Fifa vote “does not seem to be supported by everyone in the world of football”.

He said he would continue in his post until an extraordinary congress was called to elect a new president.

No dates have been set, but it is expected to take place between December this year and March 2016.

When he returned to Fifa on Wednesday, Mr Blatter was reportedly given a 10-minute standing ovation from about 400 staff and was said to be close to tears as he told them they were a “fantastic team” and they should “stay strong”.

Mr Blatter’s daughter, Corinne Blatter-Andenmatten, is quoted by Swiss Daily Blick (in German) as saying her father’s decision to resign “has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with the allegations going around”. BBC

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