SAMARA, RUSSIA —
FIFA President Sepp Blatter's right-hand man acknowledged on Wednesday signing off on $10 million in bank transactions at the center of an FBI investigation but said he had done nothing wrong.
At times stuttering as he tried to control his frustration, FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke said he had been "destroyed" by media in his native France since the start of the FBI corruption probe at soccer's governing body.
Although he signed off on the payments to an account which U.S. prosecutors say was "controlled" by an official now accused of taking bribes, he denied having any other role in the payments and said any allegations against him were "insanity".
"I am signing contracts every day... everything has the signature of the secretary general," he told a news conference in the Russian city of Samara, one of the 11 host cities for the 2018 World Cup finals.
"(But) it's not because I am signing everything that I am responsible for the way people are acting all around the world."
Taking up his pen and waving it in front of the reporters, he appeared close to losing patience.
"What do you want me to add? You want me to take this pen and to hit my head and say 'Hey! I have been stupid, I should have asked many more questions?' What questions? I think this is too much now," he said.
Valcke says no grounds to blame him
The corruption scandal erupted when police descended on a luxury hotel in Zurich on May 27 and arrested seven FIFA officials, pending extradition to the United States.
The $10 million payments in 2008 went to accounts held in a bank in Trinidad in the name of CONCACAF, the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football, that were "controlled" by former FIFA Vice President Jack Warner.
U.S. prosecutors alleged in an indictment that the money was paid in connection with an agreement Warner struck with two other FIFA leaders to vote for South Africa's successful bid to host the 2010 World Cup.
Valcke, one of the most powerful people in world sport, said there were no grounds to blame him or FIFA over the way the funds were used and FIFA has also said he had no role in the payments.
"For any money we are spending anywhere in the world there is an audit system in place... The money was requested to be spent by FIFA based on a letter I received," he said.
He said the South African government had asked the Local Organizing Committee to confirm that the payments should be deducted from the World Cup budget and FIFA decided to appoint Warner as the trustee.
The deduction from the World Cup budget was marked clearly and the money was sent to accounts that were officially recognized and had been used in the past, he said.
"So I am amazed that people are jumping on this today. It was so public... All of this is in these (audit) documents. Then the money was transferred," he added, at times raising his voice and looking bemused.
"I don't have to justify myself. Except maybe to my father who is 80 years old and doesn't understand what is going on around me. He is the only person I would still answer questions from about this."