Witness: Bribes helped Fox execs get soccer TV rights

NEW YORK (AP) — The US government’s star witness in a corruption trial over broadcast rights to some of soccer’s biggest events on Wednesday testified how he and two former Fox executives paid millions of dollars in bribes to undermine competing bids.

The trial in New York City is the latest development in a tangled corruption scandal dating back nearly a decade that has ensnared more than thirty executives and partners in the world’s most popular sport.

The witness, Alejandro Burzaco, alleges that he and former Fox executives Hernan López and Carlos Martínez conspired to bribe South American soccer officials to obtain television rights to the southern hemisphere’s biggest annual tournament, the Copa Libertadores, and to assist with terrestrial broadcast rights for most athletes. . Lucrative competition, the World Cup.

Burzaco testified that “the bribes fulfilled this purpose very well”.

Lawyers for López and Martinez maintain that the former executives are being framed, with one defense attorney accusing Burzaco of orchestrating the bribes.

During his first day on the witness stand Wednesday, Borazco told the court about bogus contracts made with football officials to transfer bribes.

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He said the payments that Lopez and Martinez accused of making to CONMEBOL officials helped Fox pressure competitors and secure the rights to tournaments at below-market costs.

Lopez, who is an Argentine national, is the former CEO of Fox International Channels and then ran a podcasting venture. Martinez, who is of Mexican descent, headed the Latin American Broadcasting Branch.

Another sports marketing and media company, Full Play Group SA, is on trial with López and Martinez, but allegations of bribery against that company involve various television rights. Full Play, which was founded in Uruguay, has been accused of paying bribes for the rights to the Copa America tournament, the quadrennial national team competition, as well as the World Cup qualifying matches.

Prosecutors are expected to question Burzaco until at least Friday, after which it will be the defense attorney’s turn.

New York-based Fox Corp., which was spun off from the International Channels subsidiary during a restructuring in 2019, has denied any involvement in the bribery scandal and is not a defendant in the case.

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The company said in a statement that it fully cooperated and respected the judicial process, noting that the international channels were part of what was then known as 21st Century Fox before the company’s reshuffle.

“This case concerns an old business unrelated to the new FOX company,” the statement said.

To date, more than two dozen people have pleaded guilty and two have been convicted at trial in connection with a US-led investigation into tens of millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks at the highest levels of soccer. Four corporate entities also pleaded guilty. Four other companies have been charged but have reached agreements with the government to avoid prosecution.

The world’s governing body for football, FIFA, She said she was not involved in any fraud or intrigue and was just a bystander when the scandal unfolded.

However, the scandal has brought the organization into global scrutiny. It has since sought polishing Her image is distorted.

Last month’s World Cup final in Qatar, where Argentina beat France In a title-clinching thriller, it was the most-watched football game of all time in the United States, according to television audience ratings.

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During opening arguments on Tuesday, Assistant US Attorney Victor Zappana told the jury that millions of dollars in kickbacks fueled a system of secret, no-bid contracts that “allowed disloyal football managers to live a life of luxury.”

Prosecutors allege that the bonuses enabled Lopez and Martinez to allow Fox to obtain classified information from high-level soccer officials, including those at FIFA, that allowed its $425 million bid to outbid rival ESPN and secure US broadcast rights for 2018 and 2022. CUPS .

Burzaco is a former business partner of the two men and heads an Argentine marketing company. He has cooperated in previous football corruption cases after being arrested for bribery in 2015 in a bid, his critics say, to avoid jail.

Burzaco pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and other charges. He testified in 2017 that all three South Americans on FIFA’s executive committee took millions of dollars in bribes to support Qatar’s recently completed 2022 World Cup bid.


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