The FIFA corruption scandal seems to be getting murkier now with former FIFA executive committee member Chuck Blazer telling 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.
According to media reports, Prosecutors unsealed a 40-page transcript of the hearing in U.S. District Court on Nov. 25, 2013, when Blazer pleaded guilty to racketeering and other charges.
Four sections of the transcript were redacted by prosecutors, presumably to protect avenues of their investigation. 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.
It may be recalled that Blazer had a no less position in FIFA . In- fact he was the No. 2 official of soccer’s North and Central American and Caribbean region from 1990-2011 and served on FIFA’s executive committee from 1997-2013. South Africa defeated Morocco 14-10 in the host vote.
Blazer had a unique persona . A heavy man with a bushy white beard and misbehaving gray curls, Blazer cut a colorful figure in world soccer. He maintained a blog that chronicled his travels, and photos show him clutching giant beer mugs, raising champagne glasses and generally looking as if he is having a grand time. Sometimes he wore a shirt covered with images of Donald Duck; sometimes he went for a more muted shiny lilac. Here he is with his arm around Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the sex therapist; there he is next to Miss Universe; here in a pirate hat and eye patch; there on a plane with Nelson Mandela.
While he was a soccer executive, prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York said in a case unsealed recently, he took bribes, including $750,000 to support South Africa as the 2010 World Cup host, and also in exchange for broadcast and marketing rights to Concacaf’s Gold Cup tournament, among other things. According to court papers, the Morocco bid committee offered someone identified as co-conspirator No. 1, whose biographical details match those of Jack Warner, $1 million for his vote for the 2010 World Cup when he and Blazer were visiting that country, before South Africa stepped in with a higher offer.
Blazer also accepted a bribe in the bidding for the 1998 World Cup. When he traveled to Morocco in 1992 with Mr. Warner, a member of the Morocco bid committee offered a payment to the co-conspirator, which Blazer reportedly helped facilitate, in exchange for his vote.
Hence his confession is all the more damaging for FIFA as it tries to get rid of the corruption taint after the recent bribery allegations and leading to the sudden and dramatic resignation of FIFA president Sepp Blatter even after he won a unprecedented fifth term .