By Andrew Warshaw
October 25 – The US-led probe into football corruption took another significant twist on Thursday when a Florida-based sports channel, GoITV Inc, sued Fox Sports Latin America alleging that Fox executives had paid tens of millions of dollars in bribes to CONMEBOL officials in exchange for lucrative television rights to tournaments, according to the Washington Post.
In a federal lawsuit, GolTV and co-plaintiff Global Sports Partners LLP reportedly claimed they were the victims of the bribery scheme involving former CONMEBOL presidents and directors and several others involved in sports marketing and broadcasting.
Between 2000 and 2015, CONMEBOL directors accepted tens of millions of dollars in bribes from Cayman Islands-registered T&T Sports Marketing which was 75% owned by Fox Sports Latin America, in exchange for the exclusive television rights to the confederation’s soccer tournaments, GolTV claimed.
“After T&T was awarded the club tournament television rights in exchange for bribes, T&T sublicensed those rights to defendant Fox Sports Latin America, Ltd., which aired the tournaments on Fox channels,” the lawsuit reads.
It further alleges that GolTV offered substantially more for the CONMEBOL television rights than T&T on several occasions but that this was repeatedly rejected.
In a statement reported by legal analysis website Law360, a Fox Network group spokesperson countered that GolTV had been “attempting without success to challenge the award of rights to Fox that were negotiated after the FIFA indictment, with full transparency to CONMEBOL. This lawsuit will fail just as GolTV’s previous efforts have failed.”
It has been reported, however, that the remaining 25% ownership interest in T&T was held by co-defendant Torneos y Competencias SA, an Argentine-based marketing firm whose CEO Alejandro Burzaco, having initially evaded arrest, pleaded guilty last year to racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy.
In support of its claims for unfair competition, GolTV also referred to Uruguayan court testimony from former CONMEBOL president and FIFA vice-president Eugenio Figueredo, one of the original ‘Zurich Seven’ arrested in May last year whom the network quoted as claiming that “the Fox company was behind all the illicit negotiations.”
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