South African police launch preliminary probe into 2010 World Cup bribe claims
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South African police on Thursday said they have opened a preliminary investigation into corruption claims related to the country’s bid to host the 2010 World Cup after a request from a political opposition party.
"We have received documents from Freedom Front Plus (FF Plus), a political party in South Africa, concerning the FIFA issues, and we have opened an inquiry file so that we investigate contents of the documents," the Hawks special crimes unit said in a statement.
"It is a preliminary investigation, we are just looking at the matter that they have given us," Hangwani Mulaudzi, spokesman for the Hawks, said, adding the unit has still to decide whether the information calls for a full investigation.
The South African government and national football association have strenuously denied bribes were paid to secure the right to host the tournament, after US authorities accused world governing body FIFA of longstanding corruption.
FF Plus, a small right-wing Afrikaans party, said it hoped the police would liaise with US investigators who allege that a $10 million bribe was paid to secure the 2010 World Cup. South Africa won the bid in 2004.
"We are asking that the police start investigations because we think there is enough evidence out there," FF Plus leader Peter Mulder told AFP. "We say they must liaise with [the] FBI."
Anton Alberts, a FF Plus lawmaker, said his party had received information that claimed a previous investigation into “irregular” payments around the World Cup bid was stopped by “high-level interference.”
“It (the information) does tell us of an event that took place and an investigation that was stunted from a political level,” Alberts said.
Accusations of bribery to win the World Cup have triggered an angry response from officials in South Africa, where the event is remembered as a moment of national pride.
On Wednesday, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula said the $10 million was an "above board" payment to promote football among the African diaspora in the Caribbean.
Newly-released testimony from former North American football supremo Chuck Blazer alleged that FIFA executives conspired to accept bribes during the bidding for the 1998 and 2010 cups, hosted by France and South Africa.
(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP)