Russia flatly deny US allegation of World Cup bid bribes
Russian officials yesterday flatly denied bribing a FIFA voter with millions of dollars to support the country's winning 2018 World Cup bid, after American prosecutors revealed new details about the alleged payments.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia had no part in bribing FIFA executive committee members to win the World Cup hosting vote in December 2010. So did Russia's top soccer official Alexey Sorokin, who led the bid.
"We can't understand what this is about, or how to react," Sorokin told The Associated Press, referring to claims in a US Department of Justice (DOJ) indictment unsealed late Monday. "We the bid committee had nothing to do with this. ... It looks like a perfect conspiracy theory."
The indictment said high-ranking FIFA official Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago received $5 million in bribes to vote for Russia from 10 different offshore shell companies, which used correspondent accounts in the US.
Warner was first indicted in 2015 on financial corruption charges that included a separate $10 million bribe from 2010 World Cup host South Africa. He was an influential FIFA vice-president at the time of Russia's victory against three rival European bids.
Detailing a new digital money trail, the fresh indictment said payments arrived in Trinidad and Tobago via "densely layered transactions between and among offshore accounts", including in Cyprus and the British Virgin Islands.
Some money was wired using accounts that also paid "companies based in the United States that performed work on behalf of the 2018 Russia World Cup bid", the DOJ said.
Sorokin acknowledged hiring Americans in the 2009-10 bidding campaign in which Russia beat three rival European bids to host the 2018 World Cup.
"There was a designer company most likely having a legal address in the US," Sorokin said in a telephone interview. "There were a number of companies. Which one was US- based and which one was not, honestly, it's hard to say right now."
Two emails were cited in the indictment as new evidence in the sprawling investigation that first rocked FIFA and international soccer officials in May 2015.
One was written by "co-conspirator 3" in April 2011 and allegedly was sent to Warner's assistant with advice on writing to accept receiving the "5m" total payments "minus minimal bank charges".
The identity of No. 3 has not been made public, but the person has been described as "a close adviser " to then-FIFA president Sepp Blatter and "other high-ranking FIFA officials".