S Africa ex-president denies FIFA World Cup bribe claims

S Africa ex-president denies FIFA World Cup bribe claims

JOHANNESBURG - South Africa's former president Thabo Mbeki Friday joined government officials in denying allegations that the country paid bribes to secure the right to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Mbeki was president when South Africa won the bid in 2004, becoming the first African country to host the event.

"I am not aware of anybody who solicited a bribe from the government for the purpose of our country being awarded the right to host the World Cup," he said in statement, adding "no public money was ever used to pay a bribe." He stated that his government would "never have paid any bribe even if it were solicited."

This week a damning indictment by US authorities alleged bundles of cash in a briefcase were handed over at a Paris hotel as a bribe by a "high-ranking South African bid committee official".

The name of the South African official has not been revealed.

The indictment also revealed that the South Africa government agreed that $10 million that was due to be paid to South Africa to run the World Cup was instead transferred from FIFA's funds to pay bribes to former FIFA vice president Jack Warner.

This week, several high ranking FIFA officials were arrested in Zurich in dawn raids by Swiss police acting at US request in what has become the biggest corruption scandal to rock the football governing body.

They face a range of charges including racketeering and money laundering, spanning 24 years.

On Thursday South Africa's Minister of Sport Fikile Mbalula rejected the corruption allegations, criticising the US for acting without consulting with South Africa.

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