Crime & Justice

FIFA corruption: Executive committee member Blazer admitted bribes

In this file photo, Chuck Blazer, Chairman of the Organising Committee for the FIFA Club World Cup, talks to the media during a press conference at Nagoya Marriott Associa Hotel on December 7, 2011 in Nagoya, Japan. Blazer, in admitting 10 counts of illegal conduct, told the court of his conduct surrounding the vote that made South Africa the first nation on that continent to host soccer's premier event, it was revealed on Wednesday, June 3, 2015.
In this file photo, Chuck Blazer, Chairman of the Organising Committee for the FIFA Club World Cup, talks to the media during a press conference at Nagoya Marriott Associa Hotel on December 7, 2011 in Nagoya, Japan. Blazer, in admitting 10 counts of illegal conduct, told the court of his conduct surrounding the vote that made South Africa the first nation on that continent to host soccer's premier event, it was revealed on Wednesday, June 3, 2015.
Shaun Botterill - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images
In this file photo, Chuck Blazer, Chairman of the Organising Committee for the FIFA Club World Cup, talks to the media during a press conference at Nagoya Marriott Associa Hotel on December 7, 2011 in Nagoya, Japan. Blazer, in admitting 10 counts of illegal conduct, told the court of his conduct surrounding the vote that made South Africa the first nation on that continent to host soccer's premier event, it was revealed on Wednesday, June 3, 2015.
Interpol issued alerts for six people who have been indicted by the U.S. in an inquiry into corruption in FIFA's dealings.
/Interpol


2:12 p.m.: FIFA executive committee member Blazer admitted bribes 

Former FIFA executive committee member Chuck Blazer told a U.S. federal judge that he and others on the governing body's ruling panel agreed to receive bribes in the votes for the hosts of the 1998 and 2010 World Cups.

Prosecutors unsealed a 40-page transcript Wednesday of the hearing in U.S. District Court on Nov. 25, 2013, when Blazer pleaded guilty to racketeering and other charges.

Blazer, in admitting 10 counts of illegal conduct, told the court of his conduct surrounding the vote that made South Africa the first nation on that continent to host soccer's premier event.

"Beginning in or around 2004 and continuing through 2011, I and others on the FIFA executive committee agreed to accept bribes in conjunction with the selection of South Africa as the host nation for the 2010 World Cup," Blazer told U.S. District Judge Raymond J. Dearie.

Blazer was the No. 2 official of soccer's North and Central American and Caribbean region from 1990-2011 and served on FIFA'sexecutive committee from 1997-2013. South Africa defeated Morocco 14-10 in the host vote.

South African Football Association president Molefi Oliphant sent a letter to FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke in 2008 asking FIFA to withhold $10 million from the budget of the 2010 World Cup organizers and to use the money to finance a "Diaspora Legacy Programme" under the control of then CONCACAF President Jack Warner. South Africa Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula denies the money was a bribe and says it was an "aboveboard payment" to help soccer development in Caribbean region.

Blazer also said he was involved in bribes around 1992 in the vote for the 1998 World Cup host, won by France over Morocco 12-7.

Warner was among 14 soccer officials and businessmen named in an indictment announced last week, and those charges said a Moroccan bid representative offered a $1 million bid payment. Blazer, whose guilty plea was made public last week, said he agreed with others "to facilitate the acceptance of a bribe."

He also admitted to corruption involving the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the region's top national team tournament which he helped launch in 1991.

"Beginning in or about 1993 and continuing through the early 2000s, I and others agreed to accept bribes and kickbacks in conjunction with the broadcast and other rights to the 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002 and 2003 Gold Cups," Blazer said.

While many of the allegations were made public last week, the transcript of the closed-court hearing in Brooklyn more than 1 1/2 years ago put them in the first-person voice of Blazer, once the most powerful soccer official in the United States. Blazer's allegations have assisted an investigation by U.S. prosecutors, who foresee additional people being charged.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who has run the governing body since 1998, said Tuesday he will be resigning, an announcement made six days after the indictments were unsealed and four days after he was elected to a fifth term. A new president will be chosen by FIFA's209 member nations and territories, likely between December and March.

Now 70, Blazer was wheelchair-bound at the hearing, according to Dearie. Blazer told the court he had received chemotherapy and radiation for rectal cancer, and he also suffered from diabetes and coronary artery disease.

Dearie said prosecutors "identify FIFA and its attendant or related constituent organization as what we call an enterprise, a RICO, enterprise."

"RICO is an acronym for, and don't overreact to this as I am sure most people do, Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization," the judge said.

Blazer forfeited over $1.9 million at the time of his pleas to racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, income tax evasion and failure to file a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts. He agreed to pay a second amount to be determined at the time of sentencing.

Four sections of the transcript were redacted by prosecutors, presumably to protect avenues of their investigation.

— Ronald Blum/Associated Press

7:58 a.m.: Interpol targets 6 officials

One day after FIFA President Sepp Blatter announced his resignation, Interpol has issued "red notices" for two former senior FIFA officials and several executives who were indicted on U.S. criminal charges. And South Africa has denied that it issued millions in bribes related to the 2010 World Cup.

Blatter will remain FIFA's leader for months; the organization says a new election could be held "anytime from December of this year to March of next year."

Interpol says six people are wanted for arrest by the U.S. Justice Department — but the agency also clarifies that its red notices aren't equal to international arrest warrants.

Red notices were issued for (descriptions from Interpol):

The United States and Switzerland are conducting separate criminal investigations into soccer's governing body for charges that include bribery, money laundering and racketeering.

Blatter's resignation Tuesday, just days after he had been elected to a fifth term as FIFA's president, fed speculation that law enforcement agencies are working toward tying the embattled leader to millions of dollars' worth of bribes. His announcement came hours after The New York Times reported that U.S. officials have linked Blatter's top lieutenant, Jerome Valcke, to a $10 million payment that is suspected of being a bribe to secure Jack Warner's support for naming South Africa the hosts of the 2010 World Cup.

At a news conference in Johannesburg today, Minister of Sport and Recreation Fikile Mbalula said that South Africa didn't bribe anyone.

Mbalula said he wants to see the U.S. evidence in the case. But he insisted that a transfer of $10 million to CONCACAF was legitimate — part of an African diaspora program. And he said his country didn't deal with criminals.

"You must understand that when we organised the World Cup we were not dealing with gangsters but people. We were not sniffer dogs to check everybody's legitimacy," Mbalula said, according to Sowetan Live. "We can't account for it. The fact that later they turned gangsters, that is not our problem."

After Blatter's resignation, Mbalula showed that he knows how to seize an opportunity. He tweeted, "am available for FIFA Presidency" — and then held an informal vote on Twitter to vote for or against nominating him for president.

For investigative journalist Andrew Jennings, the seismic events that have hit FIFA since arrest and search warrants were executed last Wednesday are both a confirmation of his hard work and a bit of old news. He's the author of the 2006 book "Foul! The Secret World of Fifa."

Jennings also made a documentary for the BBC, titled The Beautiful Bung, which detailed how a liquidator found signs that a bankrupt marketing company named ISL had issued bribes to sports officials. His efforts led FIFA to ban Jennings from its buildings and events.

"I know that they are criminal scum and I've known it for years," Jennings told The Washington Post on Tuesday. "And that is a thoughtful summation. That is not an insult. That is not throwing about wild words."

Things took a turn back in 2009, Jennings says, when agents from the FBI's organized crime unit arranged to meet him in London. He later gave them some of CONCACAF's private financial records that showed large and mysterious payments.

Jennings tells the Post that when he met the U.S. agents, his reaction was one of "bliss."

— Bill Chappell/NPR