Blazer, a US soccer official whose testimony helped set off a massive FIFA corruption scandal, has died at 72, his lawyers say. He himself was banned from all football activities in 2015 because of his own misconduct.
Chuck Blazer’s death on Wednesday was announced by his lawyers, and confirmed by the New York Times. He had been suffering from cancer and other illnesses.
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A pivotal figure in the rise of soccer in the United States, Blazer was a FIFA executive committee member from 1996 to 2013, and played a key role in a global football scandal in 2015 that ultimately led to the downfall of then-FIFA President Sepp Blatter.
In 2011, while general secretary of the governing body for soccer in the North and Central American and Caribbean region, CONCACAF, Blazer accused his boss, CONCACAF President Jack Warner, and fellow executive committee member Mohamed bin Hammam, of offering bribes to voters in that year’s FIFA presidental election. Bin Hammam, who was the only challenger to Blatter, was suspended along with Warner, allowing Blatter to be elected to a fourth term.
Blatter was elected to a fifth term in 2015, but later resigned amid a plethora of corruption charges laid against FIFA officials.
The FIFA lifestyle
However, in 2013, Blazer himself was accused of massive fraud, with a report by CONCACAF’s integrity committee saying that he had “misappropriated CONCACAF funds to finance his personal lifestyle” while general secretary of the organization from 1990 to 2011. Among other things, he was said to have used CONCACAF money to help pay rent on a residence in Trump Tower, purchase luxury apartments in Miami and make down payments on apartments in the Bahamas.
In 2013, he pleaded guilty to various corruption charges, paying fines in the millions, but not being jailed.
It later transpired that Blazer was working as an undercover informant for the FBI and the US’s Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as part of a deal after they had discovered he had not paid taxes for years on hidden incomes running into the millions.
It was his testimony that was instrumental in the arrest of several FIFA officials in Zurich in 2015 on corruption charges. He himself agreed to plead guilty to a number of charges, including racketeering and money laundering, and was banned by FIFA from all football-related activity on July 9, 2015.
His lawyers said that the scandal surrounding Blazer should not detract from his contribution to football.
“His misconduct, for which he accepted full responsibility, should not obscure Chuck’s positive impact on international soccer. With Chuck’s guidance and leadership, CONCACAF transformed itself from impoverished to profitable,” they said.
Blazer was well-known for his opulent lifestyle; among other things he rented a second apartment in Trump Tower in New York for his cats at $6,000 (5247 euros) a month. He also had a penchant for parrots, which he kept as pets.
At a hearing in 2013, he said he was suffering from rectal cancer, diabetes and coronary artery disease.
tj/ng (AP, AFP)