NEW YORK, June 4- Chuck Blazer admitted in court testimony released Wednesday he conspired with fellow FIFA executives to accept bribes during the process to choose hosts for the 1998 and 2010 World Cups.
The bearded multimillionaire, the face of North American soccer for two decades, pleaded guilty to racketeering, part of a massive US corruption case targeting world football’s governing body.
Blazer’s testimony is a key plank in the US investigation against FIFA, which the federal court document describes as a “Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization.”
The 70-year-old admitted to a raft of charges related to his leadership of the North and Central American soccer body CONCACAF and membership of FIFA’s executive committee.
He is awaiting sentencing and may be called to testify in the trials of other sports executives. The most serious charge, racketeering, carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
But in the papers released on Wednesday, the other FIFA executives identified as co-conspirators are not named.
“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 in his plea.
The 1998 World Cup was eventually awarded to France, ahead of a bid by Morocco. Another court document, detailing the charges, says that Blazer was present when a co-conspirator accepted a bribe in Morocco.
Blazer goes on to accept that he and “others on the FIFA executive committee” agreed to accept bribes in conjunction with the selection of South Africa to host the World Cup in 2010.
South African officials have strongly denied allegations by US investigators that they paid $10 million in bribes to secure the rights to host the competition.
Blazer also admitted that he and others “agreed to accept bribes and kickbacks” over broadcast and other rights to the 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002 and 2003 Gold Cup tournaments for teams governed by CONCACAF.
After pleading guilty to 10 counts, including tax evasion, in the closed-doors November 2013 hearing in New York, he was released on bail set at $10 million.
Blazer told Judge Raymond Dearie that he was being treated for rectal cancer, and had diabetes and coronary artery disease.
US media has reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is now looking into Sepp Blatter’s role as FIFA president in the tens of millions of dollars of bribes given to football officials.
Blatter shocked the football world Tuesday by announcing that he was resigning, just four days after he was re-elected to his position.
-Ovation for Blatter-
FIFA staff gave Blatter a standing ovation even as his resignation failed to quell a corruption storm that could yet touch world football’s fallen leader.
About 400 staff at the FIFA headquarters applauded the 79-year-old Swiss official the day after Blatter announced he would step down.
“There was a long ovation lasting several minutes and Mr Blatter was very emotional,” a FIFA spokesman told AFP.
Blatter’s decision to stand down sparked a race to take over as head of the world’s richest and most powerful sporting federation, with the vote not expected till at least December.
South Korean tycoon Chung Mong-Joon, Prince Ali bin al Hussein of Jordan, who was beaten by Blatter in a vote last Friday, and Brazilian football legend Zico all said they could take part.
Most eyes remain on Michel Platini, the UEFA president who failed in his bid as kingmaker last week.
Blatter, who has ruled FIFA for 17 years, won a fifth term in an election on Friday. But renewed criticism of his reign and new corruption revelations forced him into a corner.
“While I have a mandate from the membership of FIFA, I do not feel that I have a mandate from the entire world of football –- the fans, the players, the clubs, the people who live, breathe and love football,” he told a press conference.
US authorities have charged 14 football officials and sports company executives over more than $150 million in bribes.
The New York Times, which broke news of seven arrests before the FIFA congress last week, quoted law enforcement officials and other sources to back their report that Blatter is now in the firing line.
“Now that people are going to want to save themselves, there’s probably a race to see who will flip on him first,” one source told ABC News.
US Attorney General Loretta Lynch refused Wednesday, while on a trip to Latvia, to comment on the reports.
However, it emerged also on Wednesday that the Swiss authorities were yet to receive extradition requests from their American counterparts.
“We have not yet received formal extradition demands; we will release a statement when it happens,” said justice ministry spokesman Folco Gallia.
Aside from Warner being placed on Interpol’s most wanted list they also put former FIFA executive member Nicolas Leoz on it and issued an international alert.
Four heads of sports marketing companies have also been put on the list.
Leoz is in poor health and reportedly under house arrest in his native Paraguay.
In parallel to the US inquiry, Swiss prosecutors are looking into the award of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments to Russia and Qatar.
Qatar said Blatter’s resignation would have “no impact” on its World Cup preparations. The Kremlin also said Russia was “surprised” by the resignation but it was also going ahead with plans.