• Kyodo

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Japan Football Association chief Kuniya Daini has denied a report that claims Japan paid the South American federation (CONMEBOL) $1.5 million after it secured the rights to co-host the 2002 World Cup with South Korea.

“I don’t think (that happened),” Daini told reporters at Tokyo’s Haneda airport Saturday after returning from a business trip to Okinawa. “I doubt this information is reliable.”

According to the report, then JFA chairman Ken Naganuma, who passed away in 2008, paid the money to CONMEBOL in 2000 for the body’s votes for Japan in the bid process.

The payment ostensibly was to be distributed to the body’s national associations. The report states that the information regarding the payment came from an individual who was a CONMEBOL employee for 15 years.

Naganuma had already retired in 2000 and there was no ballot vote to jointly stage the World Cup in Japan and South Korea.

Responding separately to the report in Yokohama, Junji Ogura, president emeritus of the JFA, said, “I’m sure Ken-san (Naganuma) is angered by this. The truth will become clear in any case.”

The report went on to say, however, that none of the funds were ever distributed, with $1.2 million going instead into the private accounts of then CONMEBAL president and FIFA Executive Committee member Nicolas Leoz.

Leoz is now under house arrest, awaiting extradition to the United States, where he was recently indicted. Of the remaining $300,000, $200,000 went to CONMEBAL’s secretary general Eduardo de Luca and $100,000 to confederation official Zorana Dannis, according to the report.

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