NEW YORK (Reuters) - A former executive committee member of soccer’s global governing body FIFA told a U.S. judge in November 2013 that he took bribes in connection with the 1998 and 2010 World Cups, among other major tournaments.
Charles Blazer, a U.S. citizen who spent two decades as a powerful soccer official, secretly pleaded guilty to 10 criminal counts in federal court in New York as part of an agreement with U.S. prosecutors, according to a partially blacked out transcript of the hearing released on Wednesday.
According to U.S. officials, Blazer’s cooperation helped build a sprawling corruption case that has led to charges against top FIFA figures and helped prompt the resignation on Tuesday of longtime president Sepp Blatter.
Blazer served as an executive committee member of FIFA from 1997 to 2013 and he was also the general secretary of CONCACAF, soccer’s governing body in North and Central America and the Caribbean, from 1990 to 2011.
According to the transcript, during a closed-door proceeding in Brooklyn federal court on the morning of Nov. 25, 2013 Blazer told U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie:
“Among other things, I agreed with other persons in or around 1992 to facilitate the acceptance of a bribe in conjunction with the selection of the host nation for the 1998 World Cup.”
The tournament was hosted by France but a separate court document contains the allegation that bidding nation Morocco paid a bribe to another FIFA executive and that Blazer acted as the intermediary.
Blazer went on to say that from 2004 and 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.”
The transcript showed Blazer also facilitated and accepted bribes related to five different editions of CONCACAF’s premier event, the Gold Cup, between 1996 and 2003.
He also admitted to committing tax evasion and to working with others to transfer the money between accounts in an effort to conceal the kickback schemes.
“I knew my actions were wrong at the time,” he said.
Many of the details were previously revealed in charging documents released by U.S. authorities last week, when they announced indictments for 14 people, including nine FIFA officials.
The indictment said South Africa paid a $10 million bribe to secure the right to host the 2010 World Cup. The country has confirmed the payment but said it was a donation to support soccer development in the Caribbean, not a bribe.
Blazer, 70, is one of four defendants in the case who pleaded guilty in secret and agreed to assist U.S. investigators.
Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Bernard Orr and Grant McCool