Tuesday 24 April 2018

Corrupt Fifa informant and larger-than-life parrot lover Blazer dies

Disgraced: Chuck Blazer. Photo: Reuters
Disgraced: Chuck Blazer. Photo: Reuters

Rachel Alexander in New York

Chuck Blazer, the disgraced US football executive whose admissions of corruption set off a global scandal that ultimately toppled Fifa president Sepp Blatter, has died. He was 72.

At a November 2013 court hearing, during which Blazer entered guilty pleas to federal charges, Blazer said he had rectal cancer, diabetes and coronary artery disease.

With huge girth, charm, wit and a pet parrot, Blazer cut a large figure as he made deals from an office and apartment in Trump Tower.

The No. 2 official in the governing body of football's North and Central American and Caribbean region from 1990-2011 and a member of Fifa's ruling executive council from 1997-2013, Blazer was central to the rise of the sport in the US.

Blazer accused Concacaf president Jack Warner and fellow executive committee member Mohamed bin Hammam of offering $40,000 (€35,000) bribes to voters in the 2011 Fifa presidential election. Bin Hammam had been the lone challenger to Blatter, who was elected unopposed to a fourth term after Warner and bin Hammam were suspended. Blatter was elected to a fifth term in 2015 before resigning.

But it turned out Blazer's conduct was as corrupt as the actions of the people he accused.

A Concacaf investigation report released in 2013 said Blazer "misappropriated Concacaf funds to finance his personal lifestyle," causing the organisation to "subsidise rent on his residence in the Trump Tower in New York; purchase apartments at the Mondrian, a luxury hotel and residence in Miami; sign purchase agreements and pay down payments on apartments at the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas".

US government agents stopped him on a Manhattan street, threatened him with arrest, and he became a government informant.

"Chuck hoped to help bring transparency, accountability and fair play to Concacaf, Fifa and soccer as a whole," his lawyers said in a statement.

"Chuck also accepted responsibility for his own conduct by pleading guilty and owning up to his mistakes. Chuck felt profound sorrow and regret for his actions."

Blazer pleaded guilty in November 2013 to one count each of racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and wilful failure to file a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, and to six counts of tax evasion. He forfeited $1.9m but he was never jailed. He was banned from football for life by Fifa on July 9, 2015.

"His misconduct, for which he accepted full responsibility, should not obscure Chuck's positive impact on international soccer," his lawyers said in a statement. "With Chuck's guidance and leadership, Concacaf transformed itself from impoverished to profitable."

A former US Soccer Federation's executive vice president, in 1988 Blazer helped form the American Soccer League.

He was made Concacaf general secretary by Warner and created the Concacaf Gold Cup in 1991, the organisation's national team championship that is played every two years, and he rose within Fifa to become chairman of its marketing and television advisory board.

Irish Independent

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