A former executive committee member of football’s global governing body FIFA told a US judge in November 2013 that he and other officials took bribes in connection with the 1998 and 2010 World Cups, among other major tournaments.Chuck Blazer, a US citizen, secretly pleaded guilty to 10 criminal counts in New York as part of an agreement with US prosecutors, according to a partially blacked out transcript of the hearing released on Wednesday.According to US officials, Blazer’s cooperation helped build a sprawling corruption case that has led to charges against top FIFA figures and prompted the resignation on Tuesday of longtime president Sepp Blatter.Blazer served as an executive committee member of FIFA from 1997 to 2013 and was the general secretary of CONCACAF, soccer’s governing body in North and Central America and the Caribbean, from 1990 to 2011.”Among other things, I agreed with other persons in or around 1992 to facilitate the acceptance of a bribe in conjunction with the selection of the host nation for the 1998 World Cup,” Blazer told US District Judge Raymond Dearie during a closed-door proceeding in Brooklyn federal court on the morning of November 25, 2013, according to the transcript.Though France won the bidding to host the tournament, separate court documents claim Morocco paid the bribe in connection with the 1998 World Cup.Blazer added that from 2004 to 2011, “I and others on the FIFA executive committee agreed to accept bribes in conjunction with the selection of South Africa as the host nation for the 2010 World Cup.”U.S. authorities have said South Africa paid a $10 million bribe while bidding to be the 2010 World Cup host. The country has confirmed the payment but said it was a donation to support soccer development in the Caribbean, not a bribe.advertisementBlazer also admitted to taking kickbacks related to five different editions of CONCACAF’s premier event, the Gold Cup, between 1996 and 2003.”I knew my actions were wrong at the time,” he said.A lawyer for Blazer declined to comment.Many of the details were revealed in documents released by US authorities last week, when they announced indictments for 14 people, including nine FIFA officials.Blazer, 70, is one of four defendants in the case who pleaded guilty in secret and agreed to assist US investigators.During his plea, he said he suffered from health problems. Friends of Blazer say he is currently hospitalized and unable to speak due to a breathing tube.
WhatsApp Chief Executive Jan Koum at the DLD (Digital-Life-Design) conference in Bavaria. Image Credit: WSJ Advertisement Popular mobile messaging service WhatsApp has announced that it will drop its US$0.99 (S$1.42) annual subscription fee, and be made available for free from now on.The Facebook-owned service, which has a user base of 900 million users worldwide, is a messaging service for mobile devices, and can also be used to make voice calls over a phone’s Internet connection. It recently allowed users to access the mobile service on the Google Chrome web browser.WhatsApp Chief Executive Jan Koum announced this at the DLD (Digital-Life-Design) conference in Bavaria. Previously, the company had offered some users a lifetime subscription for US$1, while the majority of users were offered the service free for the first year. – Advertisement – Some users had their free-use period extended several times in the last few years and have never had to pay for the service. In a blog post, the company conceded that its subscription-based business model had not been entirely successful.“For many years, we’ve asked some people to pay a fee for using WhatsApp after their first year. As we’ve grown, we’ve found that this approach hasn’t worked well,” noted WhatsApp in a blog post.“Many WhatsApp users don’t have a debit or credit card number and they worried they’d lose access to their friends and family after their first year. So over the next several weeks, we’ll remove fees from the different versions of our app and WhatsApp will no longer charge you for our service.”In an assurance to users, the company also promised that it will not start rolling out third-party advertisements to make up for the loss in subscription fees.Instead, it will look into partnering with companies, to open communication channels with its user base.[related-posts]“Starting this year, we will test tools that allow you to use WhatsApp to communicate with businesses and organisations that you want to hear from. That could mean communicating with your bank about whether a recent transaction was fraudulent, or with an airline about a delayed flight. We all get these messages elsewhere today – through text messages and phone calls – so we want to test new tools to make this easier to do on WhatsApp, while still giving you an experience without third-party ads and spam.”[StraitsTimes]