Former FIFA exec: We took bribes ahead of the 1998, 2010 World Cups
NEW YORK — Chuck Blazer, a former FIFA executive committee member and a key player in the ongoing corruption investigation into international soccer’s governing body, admitted that he and other officials took bribes ahead of the 1998 and 2010 World Cups, court records show.
In a 40-page document that federal prosecutors released Wednesday, Blazer tells the court that he and other members of the FIFA executive committee took bribes between 2004 and 2011 and helped South Africa land the 2010 World Cup.
Blazer, who was on FIFA’s executive committee from 1997 to 2013, also describes facilitating a bribe in connection with the 1998 World Cup bidding process.
U.S. officials have said in another court document that the bribe that Blazer helped to negotiate was paid by Moroccan officials to an unnamed member of FIFA’s executive committee. Morocco’s bid for the Cup was unsuccessful. France was award the 1998 finals.
“During my association with FIFA and CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football), among other things, I and others agreed that I or a co-conspirator would commit at least two acts of racketeering activity,” he says in the newly released court document.
Blazer, who is now 70, pleaded guilty in 2013 to conspiracy to commit racketeering, wire fraud, money laundering, income tax evasion and failure to report foreign bank accounts.
The court document, from November of that year, is a transcript of Blazer’s appearance before a judge in the Eastern District of New York. As part of a plea agreement, he waives his indictment and pleads guilty to the 10 felonies.
In the transcript he reveals he has rectal cancer, coronary artery disease and diabetes, but says his cancer prognosis is good and he is holding up reasonably well even though he is wheelchair bound.
His guilty plea was recently unsealed after 14 more people were indicted in the United States last week in connection with the massive scandal.
Nine FIFA officials, as well as five sports media and marketing executives, were charged by U.S. prosecutors over alleged kickbacks of more than $150 million dating back over 20 years. Blazer has not yet been sentenced.
At one point, Blazer was the No. 2 man in the soccer governing organization for CONCACAF. He had amassed $11 million in unreported income, said Richard Weber, director of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division.
Some of that money came from kickbacks he received in conjunction with broadcast rights for five Gold Cups, a regional tournament featuring the United States, Mexico and other teams in CONCACAF.
Once the government cornered him with the tax evasion allegations, Blazer reportedly wore a hidden microphone to record other soccer officials at the 2012 London Olympics.
Blazer, an American who is lives in New York, left CONCACAF in 2011 and FIFA two years later.