Fifa denies top official Jerome Valcke was involved in a $10m payment at the heart of a US bribery investigation into world football’s governing body.
Fifa said the payments were authorised by Julio Grondona, former chairman of its finance committee, who died last year – and were legitimate.
Mr Valcke, deputy to Fifa President Sepp Blatter, has been named by the New York Times and other media as the previously unidentified official responsible for the payment to disgraced former Fifa vice president Jack Warner in 2008. Mr Valcke has denied authorising the payment.
The latest allegations follow last week’s arrests of seven senior Fifa officials at the organisation’s annual convention in Zurich. The arrests overshadowed the re-election of Mr Blatter as Fifa’s president – a position he has held for 16 years, despite criticism.
The payment followed a letter from former South African Football Association president, Molefi Oliphant, to Mr Valcke, asking for the money to be withheld from World Cup funds and paid instead to support football in the Caribbean. It said Mr Warner was to be the trustee of this money.
The payment is at the centre of the Fifa bribery scandal – a US Justice Department indictment of 18 people on corruption charges says the money was paid to Mr Warner and his deputy Chuck Blazer in return for them voting for the 2010 World Cup to be played in South Africa.
In 2011, Mr Warner was suspended by Fifa’s ethics committee following corruption allegations. He resigned from his position shortly afterwards and is one of the Fifa officials accused of bribery by the US Justice Department.
Fifa said Mr Valcke was not involved, and that the payment was made at the request of the South African government. South African Sports Minister, Fikile Mbakule, denied his government paid $10m to anyone as a bribe.
Britain’s Press Association said it had a copy of a letter the South African Football Association sent to Fifa which was addressed to Mr Valcke and requested a transfer of $10m to the “diaspora legacy programme”.
Fifa said: “In general, the Fifa Secretary General is the recipient of all letters and requests to the administration and acts in accordance with Fifa’s regulations.
“We would like to reiterate that neither the Secretary General Jerome Valcke, nor any other member of Fifa’s senior management, were involved in the initiation, approval and implementation of the diaspora project.”