FIFA’s Blazer agreed to act undercover for US prosecutors
Former FIFA executive committee member Chuck Blazer agreed to act undercover for U.S. prosecutors and has been cooperating since at least 2011 in the government’s investigation of soccer corruption.
Blazer’s 19-page cooperation agreement from Nov. 25, 2013, was unsealed Monday after a federal judge agreed to a request by five media organizations and rejected an objection by federal prosecutors.
Blazer agreed “to participate in undercover activities pursuant to the specific instructions of law enforcement agents or this office” and “not to reveal his cooperation or any information derived therefrom to any third party without prior consent,” according to the agreement between Blazer and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn, New York. Blazer also agreed not to contest any ban imposed on him by FIFA or any other soccer governing body.
Blazer agreed he had unreported income over $11 million for 2005-10 and said he would sign over title of his FIFA pension if needed to satisfy payments owed the U.S. government. He already has agreed to penalties and a fine totaling nearly $2.5 million and to pay more in the future.
In exchange for Blazer’s cooperation and guilty pleas to 10 counts, the government said it will not recommend a specific sentence for his crimes and also accepted that a reduction of up to three levels would be warranted under sentencing guidelines if he “clearly demonstrates acceptance of responsibility.”
An American who was soccer’s former No. 2 official in North and Central America and the Caribbean, Blazer pleaded guilty in November 2013 to one count each of racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and willful failure to file a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, and to six counts of tax evasion. Charges involved facilitation of bribes in connection with the selection of the 1998 and 2010 World Cup hosts, and bribes and kickbacks in conjunction with the sale of broadcast and other rights to the CONCACAF Gold Cup from 1996-2003.
His cooperation was first reported by the New York Daily News last Nov. 1. His pleas remained secret until they were unsealed last month on the same day 14 soccer officials and marketing executives were indicted on corruption charges, including seven men arrested in Zurich ahead of the FIFA Congress, pending extradition to the U.S.
Just after he was elected to a fifth term as FIFA president later that week, Sepp Blatter announced his intention to resign when a successor is chosen. A law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity, has said that the 79-year-old Blatter is a target of the investigation, The Associated Press has reported.
The maximum sentences to the 10 counts Blazer pleaded guilty to total 100 years, but he is likely to serve far less time. For example, a three-level reduction to a racketeering charge could reduce the guideline sentence from 30-37 months to 21-27 months. Judges often order sentences to be served concurrently rather than consecutively.
U.S. District Judge Raymond J. Dearie also unsealed details of his order last Thursday ordering the plea agreement to be opened.
“While the government’s dire predictions may be hyperbolic, they are not unreasonable or farfetched,” Dearie wrote. “However, I simply cannot conclude that disclosure of Blazer’s cooperation agreement would result in a substantial prejudice to these interests, particularly in light of the extensive amount of information already in the public domain.”
Blazer was CONCACAF’s general secretary from 1990-2011 and a member of FIFA’s executive committee from 1997-2013.
The cooperation agreement is dated the same day Blazer pleaded guilty and says “the defendant will provide truthful, complete and accurate information and will cooperate fully with the office.” It references 19 written agreements between Blazer and the government from Dec. 29, 2011, through November 2013.
Blazer agreed to cooperate with the IRS to determine and pay tax on his liability from 2005-13 and said he had an unreported account at FirstCaribbean International Bank in the Bahamas with $975,751. He agreed to pay a FBAR civil penalty for $487,875.
Blazer, 70, “suffers from a number of serious physical ailments that have recently required hospitalization,” according to Dearie. At the November 2013 hearing, Blazer said he had received chemotherapy and radiation for rectal cancer, and he also suffered from diabetes and coronary artery disease.
Blazer forfeited $1,958,092 and agreed to pay a second amount to be determined by the time of sentencing.
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