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FIFA bans top American soccer official for life

GENEVA -- Chuck Blazer was banned for life by FIFA's ethics committee on Thursday for widespread corruption, finally ending the career of the longtime most senior American in world football.

The expulsion from football duty was a formality after Blazer's guilty plea to racketeering and tax evasion charges was unsealed in May by United States federal agencies.

FIFA's ethics panel made its ruling using evidence from the American federal case which has plunged FIFA and international football into crisis.

Former FIFA official details bribes for 1998, 2010 World Cup

"(Blazer) was a key player in schemes involving the offer, acceptance, payment and receipt of undisclosed and illegal payments, bribes and kickbacks as well as other money-making schemes," the FIFA ethics committee said in a statement.

Blazer pleaded guilty to 10 counts including racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies and income tax evasion.

Soccer Corruption Scandal

He admitted receiving payments in a $10 million bribe scheme to support South Africa's successful 2010 World Cup hosting bid. The plot linked Blazer and two other then-FIFA executive committee members in getting cash which South African officials asked FIFA to transfer through the governing body's accounts in 2008.

Blazer also admitted involvement in World Cup ticket sale scams and abusing his position as CONCACAF general secretary to take millions of dollars in kickbacks from commercial deals he negotiated for the Gold Cup tournament.

He was a cooperating witness with United States federal agencies since 2011 after his tax affairs were investigated.

Blazer served on FIFA's policy-making executive committee for 16 years until 2013.

He had risen to power at CONCACAF, the regional football body governing North and Central America and the Caribbean, alongside its disgraced former president Jack Warner.

FIFA opened an ethics investigation against Blazer after the corrupt financial management of CONCACAF was exposed in 2012.

"Mr. Blazer committed many and various acts of misconduct continuously and repeatedly during his time as an official in different high-ranking and influential positions at FIFA and CONCACAF," the ethics panel said Thursday.

The FIFA proceedings were suspended in 2013 due to Blazer's ill-health and while the U.S. federal case developed.

Blazer, now 70, told a Brooklyn court in November 2013 that he had been treated for rectal cancer.

He forfeited more than $1.9 million at the time of his plea and has agreed to pay more when he is sentenced.

Blazer's life story could be made into a Hollywood film, reportedly to be produced by Ben Affleck. The rights to an upcoming book of his football administration career were bought last month.

Charming and ebullient, Blazer was a central figure in FIFA's lurid recent history and the breakdown of his relationship with Warner was a key turning point.

During the dual World Cup bidding races in 2010, Blazer posted pictures on his travel blog of meeting in Moscow with Vladimir Putin before Russia won 2018 hosting rights.

Blazer supported the United States bid which eventually lost the 2022 contest to Qatar. He famously questioned Qatar's credentials before he and his FIFA executive committee colleagues voted, saying of the searingly hot temperatures there that "I don't see how you can air-condition an entire country."

Five months later, Qatari candidate Mohamed bin Hammam seemed poised to threaten Sepp Blatter's hold on the FIFA presidency when he visited Warner's native Trinidad to meet Caribbean voters.

Blazer had primed some delegates to gather evidence of suspicious behavior, then turned whistleblower by handing FIFA a dossier which alleged a bribery plot.

Warner was forced out of football by his right-hand man's work and Bin Hammam never returned to football before resigning ahead of a second life ban by FIFA.

The fallout of the election bribery scandal saw Blazer's personal finances investigated and CONCACAF self-report to the Internal Revenue Service over a failure to file accounts for several years.

Blazer resigned from CONCACAF before he could be fired, and in April 2013 a three-man investigation panel delivered a damning report of financial mismanagement in the Warner-Blazer era.

At FIFA, Blazer let his final term as an executive committee member expire in May 2013 before exiting and awaiting his judgment on federal crimes.