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Saturday 10 December 2016

Chuck Blazer admitted to judge FIFA panel agreed to take bribes over World Cup

A file photo taken on June 1, 2011 shows FIFA President Sepp Blatter (L) tapping the shoulder of the general-secretary of the Caribbean, North and Central American (CONCACAF) Chuck Blazer
A file photo taken on June 1, 2011 shows FIFA President Sepp Blatter (L) tapping the shoulder of the general-secretary of the Caribbean, North and Central American (CONCACAF) Chuck Blazer

Former FIFA executive committee member Chuck Blazer told a US federal judge that he and others on the governing body's ruling panel agreed to receive bribes to vote for South Africa to host the 2010 World Cup.

Prosecutors unsealed the transcript yesterday of the 2013 hearing in the US District Court during which Blazer agreed to plead guilty to racketeering and other charges.

Blazer, the former No2 official of soccer in North and Central America and the Caribbean, said: "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 also said he arranged bribes around 1992 in the vote for which country would host the 1998 World Cup.

The news came the same day as Sepp Blatter went back to work at FIFA headquarters as the worst corruption crisis in the association's 111-year history continued to unfold.

Interpol added six men with ties to FIFA to its most wanted list, while South African officials denied they paid a $10m (€8.9m) bribe to secure the 2010 World Cup.

Blatter spoke to FIFA staff for about 10 minutes yesterday morning, returning to the same auditorium where he delivered his resignation speech a day earlier.

Staff described him as being emotional, and said he received a standing ovation.

Elsewhere, Interpol got involved. The international police force, based in Lyon, France, issued an alert for two former FIFA officials and four executives on charges including racketeering and corruption.

Two of the men, former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago and former executive committee member Nicolas Leoz of Paraguay, have been arrested in their home countries. Warner has since been released and Leoz is under house arrest. The Interpol "red notice" means they risk arrest anywhere they travel.

corruption

In South Africa, sports minister Fikile Mbalula said the government wanted to "categorically deny" that the country paid any bribes to win the right to host the 2010 tournament.

Mbalula characterised the $10m as an "above-board payment" to help soccer development in the Caribbean region.

The money, which went into a fund controlled by Warner, is part of the US investigation into soccer corruption. That probe led to the arrest of seven soccer officials in Zurich last week, kicking off the FIFA scandal and eventually leading to Blatter's decision to step down.

Warner and Leoz were among 14 people indicted in the US as part of the federal investigation.

US attorney general Loretta Lynch declined to comment on Blatter's resignation or whether he was himself under investigation.

"It's an open case and so we will now be speaking through the courts," she said.

In a separate probe, Swiss authorities have opened a criminal investigation related to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests. Russia won the right to host the 2018 tournament and Qatar was awarded the 2022 finals.

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