Chuck’s world of offshore bank accounts
By Andrew Jennings
Sunday August 14, 2011
The FBI is examining documentary evidence revealing confidential football payments to offshore accounts operated by controversial American Fifa official Chuck Blazer, the ‘whistleblower’ who sparked an investigation into allegations of bribery in the Fifa presidential election two months ago.
In May Fifa was shaken by allegations by Blazer that his longterm ally Jack Warner was involved in a plot to hand out $1 million in cash to Caribbean officials to vote for Qatar’s Mohamed bin Hammam who was running against president Sepp Blatter.
Warner, from Trinidad, became president of Fifa’s regional confederation Concacaf – the 35 countries in North, Central America and the Caribbean – in 1990 and immediately appointed Blazer as his general secretary. In 1996 Warner fixed Blazer’s elevation to join him on Fifa’s 24-man executive committee.
Cash in a brown envelope
The relationship broke asunder when Blazer, from New York, revealed that Bin Hammam, had arrived in Trinidad on May 11 in a private jet carrying at least $1 million in cash to pitch his election manifesto to regional football officials at a meeting arranged by Warner. A photograph of cash in a brown envelope was handed to ex-FBI boss Louis Freeh who has been commissioned by FIFA to investigate. Fifa have refused to reveal Freeh’s mandate. Warner resigned abruptly from Fifa, who declared him ‘innocent’ and Bin Hammam is appealing a life suspension. Blatter was re-elected unopposed.
Now the spotlight has turned to payments to Blazer accounts in the Cayman Island and Bahamas. Blazer is contracted to work for Concacaf but several payments have come from the Caribbean Football Union, a separate part of the regional confederation, tightly controlled by Warner for two decades. Blazer denies any impropriety, explaining, ‘I have and will continue to fully respond to those to whom I am responsible; namely FIFA, Concacaf and their respective stakeholders.
‘Prepared to repay the money’
The most recent payment of $250,000 was in March this year - before the split. Blazer deposited the cheque in a Bahamas account and initially claimed it was ‘repayment of a personal loan.’ However Blazer now claims that Warner may have misused the CFU account and says he is prepared to repay the money.
In September last year Warner approved another CFU payment of $205,000 to a private company operated by Blazer from Cayman. It is also alleged that another payment of $57,750 went from the CFU to Blazer’s Cayman account.
Blazer declined to answer eight specific questions asking if his offshore transactions, bank accounts and transactions had been reported to the American tax authorities, the IRS.
Blazer stated, ‘All of my transactions have been legally and properly done in compliance with the various laws of the applicable jurisdictions based on the nature of the transaction.’ He added, ‘These were not income items nor subject to tax.’
During the acrimonious power struggle it is claimed that football officials sympathetic to Blazer were entertained last month at an apartment at the luxury Reef Atlantis Paradise Island resort, Nassau, valued at nearly $3 million. Blazer is said to own the apartment through a Bahamas company, in turn owned by two other companies registered at a Nassau bank where he has an account. Blazer declined to comment.
Another of Blazer’s offshore assets, garaged in Switzerland, is an antique Mercedes 300 "Adenauer" Saloon valued at around £80,000 that he had renovated over a two-year period. Blazer declines to explain why the car is registered in Zurich as belonging to FIFA.
‘The level of granularity’
Blazer, 65, has been well-rewarded since joining Warner’s team in 1990. His confidential contract reveals that he hires himself out from his Cayman-based company Sportvertising. It also reveals that he pockets 10% in ‘commissions’ from regional football marketing deals. Last year he picked up nearly $2 million and over the last five years has taken $9.6 million. The sums are recorded in Concacaf accounts – which are not made public - under the heading of ‘Commissions’ – but with no indication he received them.
Blazer defends the omission as ‘consistent with the level of granularity of other items in the financial reports’ and that these payments are ‘consistent with industry standards’ but has declined to quote examples. His remuneration from Concacaf has never been disclosed. Blazer is paid through his company Sportvertising, domiciled in Cayman.