As South African law enforcement officials launched a preliminary investigation into allegations that the nation paid a $10-million bribe to secure its role as FIFA’s 2010 World Cup host, the meme of the day Thursday in South Africa was #DenyEverything.
South African Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula last week denied a $10-million payment to anyone, but after a leaked letter surfaced in the British media Tuesday, he confirmed a payment. He acknowledged Wednesday that the money was paid to a leading FIFA official, reportedly to administer a soccer development program, and vehemently denied that it was a bribe.
Embarrassingly, hours after Mbalula’s statement at a news conference, it emerged in U.S. court documents unsealed Wednesday that former FIFA executive Chuck Blazer had acknowledged that he and others had taken bribes in relation to South Africa’s selection to host the 2010 World Cup.
An opposition lawmaker, Anton Alberts, said Thursday that he had referred the FBI indictment on the alleged $10-million South African bribe to investigators at the country’s Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, known as the Hawks, which carries out investigations into corruption, racketeering, gangs and other major crime.