Saturday 1 October 2016

Oh, what a tangled web when searching for the truth in the kingdom of kickbacks

Henry Winter in London

Published 05/06/2015 | 02:30

Chuck Blazer
Chuck Blazer
Sepp Blatter

It is the neatly typed transcript of calmly delivered testimony to a Brooklyn courthouse that confirmed Fifa's reputation as the kickback kingdom.

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There are no frills to Chuck Blazer's claims, just the listing of serial corruption, alleging the acceptance of bribes in the allocation of a host of tournaments, including the 1998 and 2010 World Cups.

The guilty plea from Charles Blazer, formerly one of the most high-profile Fifa executives, beginning at 10am on November 25, 2013 throws the earth on top of the coffin of Fifa during the Sepp Blatter era.

Blatter came to power in 1998 and Blazer's testimony covers much of his reign.

Blatter has always denied any wrongdoing but what Blazer's claims indicate is the almost industrial level of racketeering on Blatter's watch.

No wonder the Fifa president resigned. Such is the strength of Blazer's evidence that it is hard to see how Blatter can continue during this strange interim period as Fifa awaits an election at the next congress. Blatter needs to stand down now and to explain himself to the authorities and the sport he has tainted.

The Fifa museum probably will not hurry to accept it as an exhibit but Blazer's 40-page testimony is one of the most significant documents published in the history of football, one that will inspire as much interest to historians as the 1863 Laws of the Game.

Having indicted 14 people on charges of racketeering and money-laundering, the US Justice Department claimed that the scale of bribery touched €135m over 24 years. It was blockbuster stuff and the US versus Charles Gordon Blazer provides the script, all overseen by District Judge Raymond J Dearie.

Dearie me is the only reaction to reading the testimony.

After much legal niceties at the start, it really gets going on page 31. Blazer revealed that he helped to "facilitate the acceptance of a bribe in conjunction with the selection of the host nation for the 1998 World Cup".

It is not clarified whether France or Morocco, who also bid for the competition eventually hosted by France, made the payment, although Morocco are named in the indictment as being willing to bribe. Blazer also admitted that "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."

Earlier yesterday, the South African Sports Minister, Fikile Mbalula, "denied that the money was a bribe and says it was an 'above-board payment' to help soccer development in Caribbean region". Little evidence has yet been found of how this $10m was spent.

Blazer's transcript also revealed that "beginning in or about 1993 and continuing through the early 2000s, I and others agreed to accept bribes and kickbacks in conjunction with the broadcast and other rights to the 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, and 2003 Gold Cups." Blatter had insisted before his resignation that neither Russia or Qatar would be stripped of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, but his downfall and the criminal investigations have cast doubt on his pledge.

Blatter asked American lawyer Michael Garcia to conduct an investigation into the bidding but Fifa have yet to publish the latter's report, which he finished last year. But even the summary they did publish said several leading Fifa officials failed to co-operate, suggested vote-trading took place, and revealed Russia failed to provide computer evidence, saying it had been destroyed.

Blatter addressed around 400 Fifa staff at its hq following his resignation statement. "There was a long ovation lasting several minutes and Mr Blatter was very emotional," a spokesman said.

Jérôme Valcke, Fifa's secretary general and the second most powerful official there, said he had no concerns about the letter addressed to him which discussed a $10m payment from Fifa's accounts to former vice-president Jack Warner, which the FBI say was a bribe linked to South Africa hosting the 2010 World Cup. Warner was one of six people issued with Interpol 'Red Notices', meaning they are wanted persons, following the FBI charges against them. Nicolas Leoz, the Paraguayan former Fifa official who demanded the FA Cup be renamed after him in return for supporting England's 2018 bid, was another. (© Daily Telegraph London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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