How South Africa’s bid to host the 2010 World Cup was allegedly built on bribes

Votes for the hosting location of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa were bought by bribes.

This morning, soccer fans awoke to overdue news: Nine FIFA officials had been indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice for charges of corruption, shady dealings in broadcast and marketing deals, and questionable bids for hosting the World Cup.

Swiss authorities announced this morning that they have launched a separate investigation into the 2018 and 2022 bids for the Cup, which were won by Russia and Qatar, respectively. But while the answers to those longstanding concerns will likely come in the future, documents released today by the DOJ are finally shedding some light into how South Africa’s successful bid to host the 2010 World Cup might have been bought off.

Fusion got its grubby little hands on the indictments (and other court documents) unsealed today. Here’s the story of how South Africa bought the right to host the World Cup, as best we can piece it together.

In 2004, just before the selection was to take place, Chuck Blazer and Jack Warner, two former FIFA officials, traveled to Morroco. While there, the Moroccan government offered the officials $1 million in exchange for former CONCACAF president Warner’s vote. (CONCACAF is FIFA’s soccer federation for North America, Central America and the Caribbean.)

But his travel buddy, Chuck Blazer, the former CONCACAF general secretary, filled Warner in on some details of a more lucrative offer. Other high-ranking FIFA officials, the South African government, and the South African bid committee could arrange a payment of $10 million for Warner’s vote, in order to “support the African diaspora.”

According to the court documents, Warner said yes to the offer, agreeing to give Blazer $1 million for helping arrange it.

South Africa won the vote for the 2010 World Cup over Morocco and Egypt, and six years later came the summer of the vuvuzela.

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 08:  A woman blows a Vuvuzela in central Cape Town on June 8, 2010 in Cape Town, South Africa.  (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)Getty Images

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 08: A woman blows a Vuvuzela in central Cape Town on June 8, 2010 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

That’s where the story could end, but it only gets deeper. Apparently, Warner and Blazer learned that the “South Africans were unable to arrange for the payment to be made directly from government funds.”

Instead, the money was arranged to be sent directly from FIFA, to the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) — where Warner was president. A few years went by, and the payments started coming. In January 2008, according to the documents, “a high-ranking FIFA official caused payments of $616,000, $1,600,000 and $7,784,000 — totaling $10 million — to be wired from a FIFA account in Switzerland to a Bank of America correspondent account in New York, New York.”

The accounts were held in the names of the CFU and CONCACAF, but were controlled by Warner. Shortly after, Warner started transferring the money for personal use. He also transferred $1.4 million to an unnamed Trinidadian businessman and an unnamed Trinidadian company. A few weeks later, checks of about the same amount of money were deposited into one of Warner’s account, coming from a company owned by that same unknown individual.

Over the next few years, Warner paid Blazer over $750,000 in three different payments.

Warner was among the indicted this morning on allegations of corruption — hardly a surprise to those who remember he resigned from his post in CONCACAF in 2011, when allegations of corruption were heating up.

For his part, it was announced today that Blazer had already plead guilty to 10 counts of racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, tax evasion, and other things. That happened, surprisingly, back in November 2013, but was just made public today.

Blazer forfeited over $1.9 million when he entered his plea, and the DOJ says he will have to pay even more whenever he gets sentenced. He faces up to 10 years in prison for the crime.

All of this is to say: crime pays. But then when the feds catch up to you, it takes away.

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