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 and other officials took bribes in connection with the 1998 and 2010 World Cups, among other major tournaments.
Chuck Blazer, a U.S. citizen, secretly pleaded guilty to 10 criminal counts 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 prompted the resignation on Tuesday of longtime president Sepp Blatter.
Blazer served as an executive committee member of FIFA from 1997 to 2013 and was the general secretary of CONCACAF, soccer’s governing body in North and Central America and the Caribbean, from 1990 to 2011.
"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 told U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie during a closed-door proceeding in Brooklyn federal court on the morning of Nov. 25, 2013, according to the transcript.
Though France won the bidding to host the tournament, separate court documents claim Morocco paid the bribe in connection with the 1998 World Cup.
Blazer added that from 2004 to 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."
U.S. authorities have said South Africa paid a $10 million bribe (£6.5 million) while bidding to be the 2010 World Cup host. The country has confirmed the payment but said it was a donation to support soccer development in the Caribbean, not a bribe.
Blazer also admitted to taking kickbacks related to five different editions of CONCACAF’s premier event, the Gold Cup, between 1996 and 2003.
"I knew my actions were wrong at the time," he said.
A lawyer for Blazer declined to comment.
Many of the details were revealed in documents released by U.S. authorities last week, when they announced indictments for 14 people, including nine FIFA officials.
Blazer, 70, is one of four defendants in the case who pleaded guilty in secret and agreed to assist U.S. investigators.
During his plea, he said he suffered from health problems. Friends of Blazer say he is currently hospitalized and unable to speak due to a breathing tube.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Bernard Orr and Grant McCool)