It Seems To Me. . .
American Chuck Blazer is central to U.S. Justice Deartment's case against FIFA officials.
By Robert Wagman
(Tuesday, June 2, 2015) -- Looking closely at the United States' federal indictments charging nine officials from world governing body FIFA and five other men involved in media rights and sports marketing with racketeering, money laundering and wire fraud related to bribes and kickbacks stretching back more than two decades, all the officials indicted Wednesday were associated with CONCACAF, the federation of North America, Central America and the Caribbean, and CONMEBOL, the umbrella organization South America.
The indictments all allege money was used to buy votes and to secure broadcast rights to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and to lesser soccer tournaments held in the Americas. None of the allegedly illegal deeds took place after 2010, none involved the controversial votes awarding the 2018 World Cup to Russia or the 2022 Cup to Qatar. Why focus on the 2010 World Cup. Why focus on CONCACAF and CONMEBOL? Because that is the extent of American Chuck Blazer's knowledge.
Blazer is an individual little known to even the most rabid soccer fans, but he is, in fact, one of the most important persons in the history of American soccer. Rotund, heavily bearded, he could play the role of Santa any day of the year. Take it from me, he is a great guy to talk with or to watch a soccer match in a bar.
Born in Queens, N.Y., he became interested in soccer when his son began to play. He rose quickly through the ranks of soccer administration in this country and was placed in high administrative positions within CONCACAF, where he became the right hand man of CONCACAF president Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago.
According to the government's complaint, Blazer abused his position at CONCACAF to earn millions of dollars in bribes from sports marketing companies seeking media rights to the Gold Cup, a biannual CONCACAF tournament he helped create. From his office in Trump Tower in Manhattan, and his lovely apartment there, Blazer allegedly arranged wire transfers of six-figure bribes into offshore bank accounts for shell companies he controlled.
One of the companies paying the bribes, according to the indictments, was Miami-based Traffic Sports USA, whose president, Aaron Davidson, was among those indicted.
Now, it appears that Blazer had a bit of a memory lapse. For a number of years come April 15, he neglected to file tax returns, or when he did, he neglected to include those millions he allegedly siphoned off, millions that have allowed him to live in the lap of a luxury lifestyle. Blazer had amassed, but not reported, $11 million in income, said Richard Weber, director of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division.
So the tax man came and when Blazer realized he was looking at many, many years as a guest of Uncle Sam, he immediately said to federal prosecutors, "You know I have a whole bunch of stories I could tell you."
A year and a half ago, he pled guilty to racketeering, wire fraud, money laundering and tax evasion, and he began to work as an informant for the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
To hear FIFA's outgoing president Sepp Blatter tell it, the Justice Department was out to get him and to get FIFA in some kind of plot. More likely, until Blazer fell into its lap, the Justice Department had never heard of either Blatter or FIFA. But if there is one thing the Justice Department, FBI and U.S. Attorney's offices everywhere do understand, it is headline making press conferences. To this extent, Blazer's stories have as become absolutely golden as it has turned out.
Now, in press conferences and interviews subsequent to the arrests in Switzerland and the opening of the indictments of the nine soccer officials and five marketers, we are told this is only the beginning. More will be forthcoming.
Truthfully, to move forward, the Justice Department needs another Chuck Blazer. It needs someone on the inside willing to roll over on those around and over him (or her). Now, it may have found its man in Jérôme Valcke, FIFA secretary general, essentially the man in charge of day-to-day operations of the organization.
The 47-count indictment, refers to an unidentified "high-ranking FIFA official" who prosecutors say transferred $10 million in 2008 from FIFA to accounts controlled by CONCACAF's Jack Warner. This unindicted co-conspirator is almost certainly Valcke, who says all he did was follow orders and physically transfer the money from FIFA to Warner.
But, in the game of gotcha that the Justice Department plays so well, this is about all it needs to move up the ladder. Perhaps, Valcke has explained this to Blatter who, perhaps, believes the Justice Department -- to say nothing of Swiss prosecutors -- will lose interest in him if he no longer sitting in the president's seat.
Stay tuned. There are more headline press conferences to be held, so it is likely this story has a long way to go.