NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. prosecutors believe FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s top lieutenant made $10 million in bank transactions that are central to the bribery investigation of the world soccer body, a source familiar with the matter said on Monday.
Jerome Valcke, FIFA’s secretary general, is described in an indictment filed in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, as an unidentified “high-ranking FIFA official” who in 2008 transferred the sum to another FIFA official, Jack Warner.
Valcke is not named as a defendant and has not been accused of any wrongdoing. He was not immediately available for comment.
A spokeswoman for FIFA said the $10 million in bank transactions were authorized by the then-FIFA Finance Committee chairman. The Finance Committee chairman was Julio Grondona, who died last year.
Valcke and Blatter are the top two officials within FIFA.
Valcke’s connection to the case was first reported by The New York Times. The Times said Valcke had written in an email to the newspaper that he neither had authorized the payment nor had the power to do so.
As new questions arose in the FIFA scandal, more officials were arrested, suspended or banned on Monday, and countries were weighing a World Cup boycott amid controversy over the re-election of Blatter as FIFA president on Friday.
As news broke of Valcke’s alleged connection to the case, FIFA announced that Valcke would not attend the opening of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015 due to begin on Saturday as previously scheduled.
“It is important that he attends to matters at FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich,” FIFA said in a statement.
‘WHY ARE THERE NO INVESTIGATIONS INTO SEPP BLATTER?’
Warner, a former FIFA vice president, is among 14 FIFA officials and corporate executives charged by the U.S. Department of Justice last Wednesday with running a criminal enterprise that involved more than $150 million in bribes.
Warner left jail in Trinidad and Tobago on Thursday after he was granted bail, according to local media.
“Why are there no investigations in Asia, or in Europe?” Warner asked German magazine Stern in an interview released on Monday.
“Why are there no investigations into Sepp Blatter? No other person has brought so much shame and disgrace on FIFA.”
A court transcript released on Monday said that Warner’s son, Daryan Warner, secretly agreed in 2013 to cooperate with U.S. authorities and to admit to participating in a World Cup ticket-reselling scheme.
Like his brother Daryll, Daryan had agreed to assist U.S. authorities as part of separate plea deals.
The transcript, ordered released by a federal judge in Brooklyn, New York, contained Daryan Warner’s guilty plea.
The $10 million payment is a key feature of the indictment accusing Jack Warner of taking a bribe in exchange for helping South Africa secure the right to host the 2010 World Cup.
The indictment said an arrangement had been made with FIFA officials to have $10 million that otherwise would have gone to South Africa to support the World Cup to the Caribbean Football Union, where Warner was president.
The indictment said that the high-ranking FIFA official identified on Monday as Valcke caused $10 million to be wired to accounts controlled by Warner, who subsequently diverted portions of the money for his personal use and to personal accounts, the indictment said.
In Zurich, Enrique Sanz, the general secretary of CONCACAF (the Confederation of North, Central America and the Caribbean Association Football), was suspended and Congolese Football Association (FECAFOOT) officials Jean Guy Blaise Mayolas and Badji Mombo Wantete were provisionally banned by FIFA’s ethics committee.
In Paraguay, a judge on Monday ordered house arrest for the former president of South America’s soccer federation, Nicolas Leoz, accused of involvement in the scandal.
England called for a boycott but a senior UEFA official cast doubt on an outright move, while Sweden’s soccer authorities have not ruled out the possibility of a boycott, Swedish FA chairman Karl-Erik Nilsson told Reuters.
Following Blatter’s re-election as FIFA president, the English Football Association’s chairman Greg Dyke said his organization would support any boycott led by UEFA, the Union of European Football Associations.
English Football Association board member Heather Rabbatts said she was withdrawing from FIFA’s task force against racism and discrimination with immediate effect.
“Like many in the game, I find it unacceptable that so little has been done to reform FIFA,” Rabbatts said in a statement.
Reporting by Nate Raymond; Writing by Bernard Orr; Editing by Howard Goller