JOHANNESBURG, May 28- South African Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula on Thursday denied allegations that huge bribes were paid to win the right to host the 2010 World Cup, saying that public money had not been given to “criminals”.
FIFA has been engulfed in a bribery scandal that includes accusations from the US attorney general that FIFA officials took cash in return for awarding the tournament to South Africa.
The US indictment alleged that 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”.
It also alleged 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.
“We as a government and people managing the resources of the South African people — we did not share part of your resources with criminals, I am saying it now and forever,” Mbalula said.
“The South African government and its people will not stand in any way of pursuing justice, criminality (and) fighting corruption in sport.”
Mbalula criticised how the US had made its allegations without consulting South Africa.
“We are not and we have never acted in Hollywood and we are not used to these things,” he told reporters in Johannesburg.
“Let us protect our sovereignty and national interest and fight corruption — but equally we must not allow to be abused… people seem to cast aspersions on our integrity.
“There is nothing from our side that could implicate our government, as has been vastly speculated… we must not become a reckless casualty.”
The South Africa Football Association dismissed the allegations on Wednesday, and cited the role of Nelson Mandela in winning the historic bid.
“We are disappointed at the baseless and untested allegations and request proof from anyone who has contrary evidence,” national football association spokesman Dominic Chimhavi said.
“Our bid campaign was run by, among others, late president Nelson Mandela, former president Thabo Mbeki and several government ministers, who are men of integrity.”
The 2010 World Cup bidding was confined to Africa, and South Africa defeated Morocco 14-10 in a vote to decide which country would be the first from the continent to stage the tournament.
“When we concluded the FIFA World Cup here in South Africa we got a clean audit report,” Jeff Radebe, Minister in the Presidency, told reporters in Cape Town earlier Thursday.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter has come under severe pressure from sponsors over the scandal, but Radebe recalled that Blatter had boosted South African pride after the largely successful tournament.
“He gave us, I think, eight or nine out of 10,” Radebe said.