Football: Fifa suspend Valcke over misconduct allegations

Valcke is under investigation over misconduct allegations.
Valcke is under investigation over misconduct allegations.REUTERS

ZURICH (AFP) - Fifa on Thursday immediately suspended secretary-general Jerome Valcke over misconduct allegations and placed him under investigation.

Valcke "has been put on leave and released from his duties effective immediately until further notice," said a Fifa statement.

"Further, Fifa has been made aware of a series of allegations involving the secretary-general and has requested a formal investigation by the Fifa Ethics Committee."

The allegations - branded “fabricated and outrageous” by 54-year-old Valcke's lawyer - have been made by a consultant at a company that struck a deal with Fifa to sell tickets for the 2014 World Cup but the contract was cancelled.

The Frenchman, who has been Fifa president Sepp Blatter's right-hand man since 2007, is alleged to be the beneficiary of an agreement to sell the tickets at inflated prices.

“Jerome Valcke unequivocally denies the fabricated and outrageous accusations by Benny Alon of alleged wrongdoing in connection with the sale of World Cup tickets,” a statement from Valcke's New York attorney Barry Berke said.

He said Valcke “never received or agreed to accept any money or anything else of value from Mr Alon.”

“As has been reported, Fifa entered into an agreement with Mr Alon’s company, JB Sports Marketing,” the lawyer's statement said. “That agreement and Fifa's subsequent business dealings with Mr Alon were vetted and approved by Fifa and its legal counsel.” 

Fifa have been embroiled in a major corruption scandal since the arrest of seven of its officials on May 27 attending a Fifa congress in Zurich to elect a new president.

They are among 14 people charged by US authorities over more than US$150 million (S$210 million) in bribes given for television and marketing deals.

Despite the arrests in May, the election went ahead with Blatter winning a fifth mandate although the 79-year-old then announced he would be standing down with a new election scheduled for February.

Valcke was not implicated in the Fifa corruption scandal although he has been a steadfast supporter of Blatter.

But he has come under scrutiny in recent months over what he knew about a US$10 milion payment from the South African FA to an account controlled by the then North and Central American (Concacaf) football chief Jack Warner through Fifa in 2008.

US investigators believe the money was a bribe in return for backing for South Africa getting the 2010 World Cup.

Fifa has insisted it only acted as an intermediary between South Africa and former Fifa vice-president Warner who quit world football's governing body and his other functions in 2011 over other corruption allegations.

Valcke said he only knew about the payment because he receives all correspondence sent to Fifa but he did not authorise the transfer.