-- The secret insider the FBI used to help indict high-level FIFA officials himself admitted to having taken bribes from two countries in their push to host the World Cup, according to newly-released court documents.
Charles Blazer, an American ex-FIFA executive committee member-turned-government informant, pleaded guilty back in November 2013 to charges of tax evasion and fraud. Today the Justice Department released documents relating to Blazer’s plea that spell out how he got his hands on dirty money long before he helped the FBI clean up the game.
“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,” Blazer said the November 2013 hearing, according to a court transcript. The bribe was paid by Morocco in their bid for the cup, even though France eventually won out and hosted the games, another court document says.
Blazer also admitted to “accept[ing] bribes and kickbacks in conjunction with broadcast” for several other tournaments and he said he “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 South Africa deal – in which the African nation allegedly promised $10 million to three FIFA executives for their votes – was revealed when the larger FIFA scandal broke last week. But today’s documents show it was Blazer who eventually received $750,000 for his part in the scheme. Last week the South African government denied wrongdoing, saying its audit report after the games was “clean.”
Blazer’s cooperation with authorities appears to have been key in the arrest of several high-level FIFA officials in late May. Indictments filed against 14 people, nine of them FIFA or ex-FIFA officials, repeatedly mention activities involving “Co-Conspirator #1.” While Blazer is not named in those indictments, Blazer’s own criminal information document describes him in the same meetings and taking the same actions as the indictment’s “Co-Conspirator #1.”
U.S. officials previously told ABC News that after he flipped, Blazer went as far as to record conversations with other soccer officials.
Overall, U.S. Justice Department officials say the corruption they’ve uncovered amounted to some $150 million in bribes and kickbacks.
The unsealing of Blazer’s deal comes a day after embattled FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who was not charged with any crimes, announced he would be stepping aside. After more than a decade of allegations of corruption and controversy for FIFA under his watch, Blatter won a fifth presidential election just last week.
Sources familiar with the case told ABC News Tuesday that Blatter is being investigated by the FBI and U.S. prosecutors as part of the probe that led to last week’s stunning indictments.