- FIFA rocked yesterday by arrests of seven officials at luxury hotel in Zurich
- Claims emerge that raid was based on evidence provided by Chuck Blazer
- The former FIFA executive resigned in 2013 amid allegations of corruption
- Spent previous two years building stash of evidence against colleagues, it is claimed
John Hall for MailOnline
05:57 EST, 28 May 2015
06:21 EST, 28 May 2015
Former FIFA executive Chuck Blazer (above) is understood to have worked as an FBI informant
A former FIFA executive acted as an FBI informant to provide secret evidence that led to the dramatic arrests of high-ranking FIFA officials yesterday, it has been claimed.
The 70-year-old multi-millionaire helped build the sport’s popularity and was a key part of moves to bring the World Cup to the US in 1994.
But in 2013 he resigned from FIFA amid allegations of corruption, which the U.S. Justice Department yesterday revealed he had pleaded guilty to and therefore faces up to 15 years in prison.
There are claims that by that time he had spent two years building a stash of evidence against his colleagues – allegedly helping investigators to grasp the full scale of decades of corruption at FIFA.
It is alleged that he also used the 2012 London Olympics as a major stage for evidence gathering, apparently setting up meetings with top officials at the FBI’s behest at which he is said to have used hidden microphones to record incriminating conversations.
According to the New York Post, The US national agreed to work with the FBI in 2011 after he was confronted over his failure to pay taxes since 1996.
The newspaper says recordings he made provided the FBI with evidence that led to the arrests of FIFA executives on Wednesday morning.
Football’s governing body was rocked by early morning arrests of seven football officials at a luxury hotel in Zurich, where the organisation is based.
A law-enforcement source told The Post: ‘The main source for the investigation is Chuck Blazer.’
Blazer is said to have argued against the FBI’s plan to place the microphone inside a fob on his key chain, claiming a man of his stature would never dream of placing a set of keys on the table during a conversation with colleagues.
Spy: Former Fifa boss-turned-informant Chuck Blazer pictured as a pirate at a fancy dress party
Chuck Blazer (left) poses with FIFA President Sepp Blatter (centre) and Franz Beckenbauer, Chairman of the Organising Committee for the FIFA 2006 World Cup, in Frankfurt in May 2005
The longtime No. 2 official in soccer’s North and Central American and Caribbean region, Blazer is known for his large belly, bushy beard, theatrical lifestyle and adeptness at gaining a voice for the U.S. among the sport’s international power brokers.
He also is known as ‘Mr. 10 Percent’, for his employment contracts that included 10 percent commissions on any deals he negotiated.
The Santa Claus lookalike, who tips the scales at more than 400 pounds, once served as the right hand man to former CONCACAF president Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago. Warner was among the FIFA executives arrested during yesterday’s raids.
Members of the FIFA executive committee are led away by officers through the side exit of the hotel, with many using bed sheets to shield themselves from the public eye as they were placed in unmarked police cars. Seven high-ranking officials were arrested in a dramatic dawn raid at a five-star hotel in Switzerland
FBI officials remove files from the headquarters of the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football after raiding the premises amidst news of the alleged FIFA corruption scandal
As the first American to serve as a FIFA executive in nearly 50 years, Blazer built a reputation as an eccentric, but hugely successful businessman who, despite an often unruly experience, had a penchant for the high life and a credit card bill that alone topped €29 million.
He even kept an apartment in New York’s famous Trump Towers purely for his cats to live in.
Blazer amassed a huge personal wealth largely built around his FIFA contract that effectively entitled him to 10 per cent of all the profits made by CONCACAF – the organisation that runs all the professional football played anywhere between Panama and Canada.
However, according to an investigation by the New York Daily News, Blazer was accused of failing to pay income tax on huge secret incomes for more than a decade in 2011, and was allegedly convinced to become an informant by FBI agents.
A RAID ON FIFA’S CORRIDORS OF POWER: THE HIGH-RANKING EXECUTIVES WHO HAVE BEEN ARRESTED AND THE OTHERS WHO ARE FACING CHARGES
The highest profile of those arrested, Cayman Islander Webb is the current FIFA vice president and executive committee member, CONCACAF president and Cayman Islands Football Association (CIFA) president.
The 50-year-old (right) was born and lives in the Cayman Islands and was previously been hailed by Sepp Blatter as the potential successor to the position of FIFA president.
He was one of several FIFA officials to call for the publication of the Garcia Report into allegations of corruption surrounding Russia and Qatar’s bids for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups.
He is also a member of FIFA’s Strategic, Finance, Organising World Cup and Emergency Committees.
He was pictured with FA President, Prince William, at a gala dinner to celebrate the Football Association’s 150th anniversary in October 2013.
Former footballer and now Uruguayan FA executive.
The 83-year-old (right) is a former president of CONMEBOL, the South American football federation.
He has U.S. and Uruguayan citizenship and took over from Nicolas Leoz as CONMEBOL president in 2013.
He was President of the Uruguayan FA from 1997 until 2006.
A former general secretary of the Cayman Islands Football Association.
The 58-year-old is an advisor to the CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb and is a former CIFA general secretary.
The U.S. Department of Justice lists his nationality as United Kingdom and he is understood to have studied at Imperial College in London in 1970s.
He and his wife own a £500,000 home near Turnpike Lane tube station in North London.
He works for the Sonnen technology and mining company.
Jose Maria Marin
Vice-president of the Brazil Football Federation (CBF) and its former president.
The CBF were the football organisation who handed out controversial £16,000 Parmigiani watches at their congress in Sao Paulo a year ago when Marin was chief of the association.
Marin, 83, is a currrent member of the FIFA organising committee for the Olympic football tournaments.
Marin (right) was Brazilian FA president from 2012 to 2015 and was a former striker for Sao Paulo.
Marin caused controversy in 2012 when he was accused of pocketing a medal during a youth football tournament.
Marin was caught on camera and described the incident as ‘a real joke’.
Current FIFA development officer issued with the task of ‘working with Member Associations in identifying and implementing future projects within their respective regions’.
The 64-year-old (right) is a former Central American Football Union (UNCAF) president and Nicaraguan soccer federation (FENIFUT) president.
Current FIFA executive committee member-elect, he is the CONCACAF executive committee member and Costa Rican soccer federation (FEDEFUT) president.
A civil engineer, he became President of a Second Division club in 2002 and then head of the Costa Rican FA five years later.
The Costa Rican national (right) was due to join FIFA’s executive committee on Friday.
The 56-year-old also oversaw the hosting of last year’s Under -17 Women’s World Cup in his native Costa Rica.
Current CONMEBOL executive committee member and Venezuelan soccer federation (FVF) president.
He was appointed head of the FVF in 1988, making him one of the longest serving executives in South American football.
He also sits on FIFA’s disciplinary committee.
Esquivel, who was born in Tenerife, Spain in 1946, moved to Venezuela at the age of four, when his family fled the Franco dictatorship in his homeland.
NAMED ON U.S. INDICTMENT, BUT NOT YET ARRESTED
The 72-year-old is a former FIFA vice president and executive committee member.
In 2007, he described England as an ‘irritant’, but retracted a year later when the Three Lions agreed a friendly against Trinidad & Tobago and apologised.
In 2006, after being instructed by FIFA to investigate Warner, Ernst & Young estimated that Warner’s family had made $1million from reselling 2006 World Cup tickets.
Subsequently, a fine of around that figure was imposed on Warner and his family.
In 2013, the CONCACAF Integrity Committee produced a report which accused Warner and his former cohort Chuck Blazer of mismanagement and massive fraud.
It alleged that Warner concealed his ownership of the land on which CONCACAF’s 25 million dollar Joao Havalange Center of Excellence was built, which made him the effective owner of the building.
Warner said: ‘As far as I am aware it is baseless and malicious. I left CONCACAF and turned my back on football two years ago. Since then I have had no interest in any football-related matter.’
The Paraguayan, 86, is a former sports journalist and was president of CONMEBOL from 1986 until 2013.
In 2010, the BBC’s Panorama programme claimed Leoz had taken bribes in the 1990s in relation to the sale of World Cup TV rights.
In May 2011, the then head of the English FA, Lord Triesman, accused Leoz of requesting an honorary knighthood in reward for supporting a World Cup bid for England.
He has denied the allegations.
Email correspondence later revealed Leoz asked for the FA Cup to be named after him.
All nine were named in a 47-count indictment at a federal court in New York, charged with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies, among other offences.
Although he is currently gravely ill in a New York hospital suffering from colon cancer, the U.S. Justice Department report on yesterday’s arrests revealed Blazer was among four men who have already pleaded guilty in relation to the corruption case and now faces 10 years in jail for failure to file a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, and five years in prison for tax evasion.
On his blog, Blazer revealed how he ‘had the pleasure’ of meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in the summer of 2010.
He recalled how the President said he looked like philosopher Karl Marx before the pair shared a high-5. Blazer wrote that there followed ‘a half hour exchange of wit, charm and effective communications.’
Putin today reaffirmed his support for embattled FIFA chief Sepp Blatter and accused the United States of meddling as major sponsor Visa threatened to withdraw their backing in the wake of the £100m corruption scandal.
Putin said the United States, who are leading the investigation into racketeering, fraud and money laundering at the top of football’s world governing body, of ‘yet another blatant attempt to extend its jurisdiction to other states.’