And the man who reportedly helped the FBI build its case is a former top-ranking FIFA executive from New York City. The New York Daily News published an investigation about former FIFA Executive Committee member Chuck Blazer’s involvement in the corruption case in November, and BuzzFeed wrote about the “swindling suburban soccer dad” in June.
Blazer was “one of the most powerful men in world soccer” before he left FIFA in 2013 amid an ethics investigation, according to SB Nation, which noted that Blazer likely cooperated with the FBI’s FIFA investigation in order to avoid jail time.
Those arrested on corruption charges on Wednesday include some of FIFA’s highest-ranking officials. While FIFA President Sepp Blatter was not among those arrested, officials told the Times that the investigation is still ongoing and that Blatter has not been cleared of wrongdoing.
The arrests came as FIFA officials gathered in Zurich for their annual meeting. Arrested officials are expected to be extradited to the US, according to the Times. Authorities allege that the officials accepted million in bribes and kick-backs from the 1990s to today.
While Blazer’s role in the case has not been officially confirmed by authorities, he’s suspected of being a key player in the investigation.
How Blazer became an FBI informant
Blazer reportedly turned on Jack Warner, the former president of FIFA’s governing body for soccer in North America and the Caribbean, when he realised that he might be linked to Warner’s ethics violations.
Blazer was reportedly Warner’s right-hand man, and likely turned Warner in to ethics investigators to avoid being labelled a co-conspirator once Warner’s transgressions became so obvious that it was likely he’d be caught, according to the Daily News. Warner was among the officials arrested on Wednesday.
The FBI and IRS reportedly convinced Blazer to cooperate by telling him they knew that he’d been evading taxes for decades.
To help the FBI build its case, Blazer reportedly took a keychain with a tiny microphone embedded in it around with him to meetings with FIFA officials, according to the Daily News. Some of these meetings took place at the London Olympics in 2012. Blazer reportedly emailed the officials the FBI was targeting and arranged to meet them at the games.
Blazer’s lavish lifestyle
Blazer himself was reportedly enjoyed the perks of his position. The Daily News wrote about the millions of dollars he charged to credit cards to fund his extravagent lifestyle, which reportedly included a Trump Tower apartment just for his cats.
From 1996 to 2011, Blazer reportedly made $US15.3 million in commission from sponsorships and TV rights, revenue from match tickets, and sales of luxury suite rentals, parking and venue concessions, according to the Daily News. Blazer allegedly hid the money in shell companies. He also earned millions more for his position with CONCACAF, the governing body of soccer in North America and the Caribbean.
CONCACAF reportedly paid thousands of dollars for fancy apartments and a Hummer car for Blazer, who racked up millions in personal expenses that CONCACAF paid for.
Blazer was known for eating at expensive restaurants frequented by celebrities and flying on private jets. He had a luxury condo in the Bahamas and had reportedly met Vladimir Putin, Hillary Clinton, Pope John Paul II, and Nelson Mandela, according to BuzzFeed.
CONCACAF investigated Blazer and in 2013 found that he defrauded the confederation, according to BuzzFeed.
How Blazer rose to the top of international soccer
Blazer’s rise within FIFA was meteoric. In 1989, he was an unemployed suburban soccer dad who was stuck in debt, according to an extensive BuzzFeed profile of him.
Blazer first got involved in soccer when his son started playing in 1976. He started coaching the team and became more deeply involved in the sport, despite never having played himself. He eventually graduated from his roles in youth soccer to and moved up the ranks of state and national soccer organisations.
Blazer got elected executive vice president of the United States Soccer Federation in 1984. Blazer lost his spot within the USSF in 1986 when he failed to get reelected, but then he co-founded a new professional league called the American Soccer League, which eventually merged with another league after only two seasons, BuzzFeed reported.
Blazer met Warner in 1984 when they were both serving at CONCACAF. The pair became friends at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, according to BuzzFeed. Blazer convinced Warner to run for president of CONCACAF, and Blazer ran his campaign. When Warner won, he appointed Blazer general secretary in charge of the confederation’s daily operations.
Blazer reportedly knew a lot about the business side of soccer and was an audacious salesman, making him a good candidate for reviving soccer in America.
Ken Bensinger wrote in BuzzFeed: “[Blazer] helped win Major League Soccer’s first real TV contract, and [last year] the MLS inked a $US720 million TV deal. The U.S. national team, which he helped promote, is now a World Cup mainstay, ranked higher than powers such as France and the Netherlands. And more people in America are playing soccer than any team sport save basketball.”
Blazer eventually got a spot on FIFA’s Executive Committee, the first American to do so in nearly 50 years, and reportedly helped turn FIFA into a “profit machine,” according to BuzzFeed.
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