Witness: Bribes helped Fox execs get soccer TV rights

NEW YORK (AP) – The U.S. government’s star witness in a corruption trial over broadcast rights to some of soccer’s biggest events testified Wednesday that he and two former Fox executives paid millions of dollars in bribes to compromise rivalries. is

The trial in New York is the latest development in a tumultuous corruption scandal that has spanned nearly a decade and has implicated more than a dozen executives and associates in the world’s most popular sport.

The witness, Alejandro Burzaco, alleged that he and former Fox executives Hernan Lopez and Carlos Martinez conspired to bribe South American soccer officials for TV rights to the Southern Hemisphere’s biggest annual tournament, the Copa Libertadores, and helping terrestrial broadcasting rights to most sports. lucrative competition, World Cup.

“The bribes served that purpose very well,” says Burzaco.

Lawyers for Lopez and Martinez have asserted that the former officials were framed, with a defense attorney accusing Burzaco of administering the bribes.

In his first day on the witness stand Wednesday, Burazco told the court about the secret deals he arranged with football officials to extract the gifts.

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He said the payments Lopez and Martinez allegedly made to South American Football Association officials helped Fox squeeze competitors and secure rights to tournaments for below-market prices.

Lopez, a citizen of Argentina, was the former CEO of Fox International Channels and later ran a podcast business. Martinez, a Mexican national, heads the broadcaster’s Latin American affiliate.

Another sports media and marketing company, Full Play Group SA, is on trial with Lopez and Martinez, but the bribery charges against that company include different TV rights. Full Sport, incorporated in Uruguay, is accused of paying bonuses for the rights to the Copa America, a quadrennial national football team competition, and to the World Cup qualifiers.

Prosecutors are expected to question Burzaco until at least Friday, after which there will be defense attorney sessions.

New York-based Fox Corp., which was split from a subsidiary of international channels 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 has 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 change.

“This case involves a legacy business that is not connected to the new FOX Center,” the statement said.

So far, more than a dozen people have been convicted and two people have been convicted in court in connection with the US investigation into tens of millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks at the highest levels of football. Four corporate entities have also been convicted. Four other companies were charged but reached agreements with the government to avoid prosecution.

The world football association, FIFA, has said that he was not involved in any fraud or conspiracy and was just waiting as the scam unfolded.

However, the tragedy brought the organization under international scrutiny. He has since come from Poland your damaged image.

Last month’s World Cup final was in Qatar, where Argentina beat France in a dramatic title-clinching shootout, was the most-watched soccer match ever in the United States, according to the television audience.

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During opening arguments Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Victor Zapana told jurors that millions of dollars in bribes fund a secret, unauthorized contract that “allowed unscrupulous football executives to live a life of luxury.” “

Prosecutors alleged that the payments allowed Lopez and Martinez to allow Fox to obtain confidential information from top soccer officials, including those at FIFA, that allowed a $425 million bid to defeat rival ESPN. and securing US broadcast rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Burzaco was a former business partner of the two men and headed an Argentine marketing company. He has previously cooperated in football corruption cases after his own bribery arrest in 2015 in a bid, his critics argue, to avoid prison.

Burzaco has pleaded guilty to conspiracy and other charges. It was revealed in 2017 that all three South Americans on FIFA’s executive committee accepted multimillion-dollar bribes to support Qatar’s bid for the recently concluded 2022 tournament.


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