A former executive committee member of football’s global governing body FIFA told a US judge in 2013 that he took bribes in connection with the 1998 and 2010 World Cups, according to a partial release of his testimony. US prosecutors on Wednesday unsealed the transcript of the 2013 hearing in US District Court in New York during which Chuck Blazer agreed to plead guilty of racketeering and other charges.
Blazer said: “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.”
The former No 2 official of football in North and Central America and the Caribbean also said he arranged bribes around 1992 in the vote for which country would host the 1998 World Cup. Blazer, a US citizen, secretly pleaded guilty to 10 criminal counts in federal court in New York as part of an agreement with US prosecutors, according to the transcript of the hearing.
Blazer’s cooperation helped build a sprawling corruption case that has led to charges against top FIFA figures and helped prompt the resignation of long-time president Sepp Blatter. The latest revelation comes as the FBI’s investigation surrounding FIFA has now expanded to include the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar, according to reports.
The review would be part of a probe that goes beyond the allegations of bribery in a US indictment of FIFA officials announced a week ago, an official told Reuters news agency. FIFA awarded the hosting rights to these countries in 2010 but there have been calls to strip both hosts of the World Cup.
In a separate investigation, Swiss authorities had confirmed that they were looking into the bidding process for both tournaments. Qatar’s foreign minister, however, remained confident that the tournament will not be taken away from the Gulf Arab state.
“It’s very difficult for some to digest that an Arab Islamic country has this tournament,” Khaled al-Attiyah said on Wednesday.
“No way Qatar can be stripped [of it]. We’re confident and deserve to win it because we presented the best file.”
For its part, Russia has also dismissed concerns it might lose the right to host the 2018 event.
“Cooperation with FIFA is going on and, most importantly, Russia is continuing preparations for the 2018 World Cup,” Dmitry
Peskov, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson, said on Wednesday.Among issues the FBI is examining is the stewardship of FIFA by Blatter, the football body’s long-time president, who on Tuesday unexpectedly announced his plan to resign. Blatter has not been directly implicated in the parallel US and Swiss criminal investigations into FIFA, which were announced last week. Al Jazeera