Los Angeles (AFP) – Corrupt football official-turned-whistleblower Chuck Blazer, whose evidence helped trigger the FIFA bribery scandal, died Wednesday, his lawyers said.
Blazer, who was banned for life from all football activities for corruption in 2015, had been battling cancer up to his death. He was 72.
“We are truly saddened by the passing of our client and friend, Chuck Blazer,” his lawyers said in a statement to AFP.
“His misconduct, for which he accepted full responsibility, should not obscure Chuck’s positive impact on international soccer,” the statement added.
The bearded, hulking football official was a pivotal figure in the corruption scandal which convulsed FIFA in 2015 and ultimately led to the downfall of former supremo Sepp Blatter.
Yet for years Blazer himself was seen as emblematic of the worst excesses of FIFA during the Blatter era, unapologetically pocketing millions to fund a luxurious, globe-trotting VIP lifestyle.
His notorious excesses included an $18,000-a-month apartment in Trump Tower in New York — and a separate $6,000 unit in the same building just to keep his mob of unruly cats.
Blazer had pleaded guilty in 2013 to charges of racketeering, wire fraud, money laundering and tax evasion as part of a web of corruption that spanned multiple decades.
“Chuck felt profound sorrow and regret for his actions,” his attorneys said Wednesday. “He expressed sincere remorse towards his former constituents and colleagues, and to all of the soccer players and fans disappointed by his conduct.”
While FIFA banned Blazer in 2015, he had in fact cut a deal to work with investigators years earlier, taking recording devices into meetings to help build a case against corrupt officials across the globe.
– ‘Mr Ten Percent’ –
Blazer had risen to power through his work with CONCACAF, the ruling body for football in North America, Central America and the Caribbean, where he served as general secretary from 1990 until 2011.
He was a powerful member of FIFA’s corruption-tainted Executive Committee from 1996 to April 2013, when he was succeeded by US Soccer’s Sunil Gulati.
Blazer notoriously trousered vast earnings during his years as a football powerbroker, with one estimate suggesting he raked in millions to fund his extravagant lifestyle.
A 2013 report by CONCACAF’s integrity committee said Blazer had received more than $20.6 million in commissions, fees and rental payments from the organisation between 1996 to 2011.
Between 2004 and 2011, some $26 million of CONCACAF expenses were charged to his personal American Express account.