By Samindra Kunti in New York
February 7 – The latest FIFA trial in Brooklyn has been paused after federal judge Pamela Chen reportedly tested positive for Covid-19.
The criminal trial centering on two former 21st Century Fox executives Hernan Lopez and Carlos Martinez who are charged with bribing FIFA officials for broadcast rights to the Copa Libertadores, World Cup and other major properties had to be put on hold on Monday following the judge’s positive test.
Last week Covid-19 also affected proceedings when lead prosecutor Kaitlin Farrell contracted the virus and judge Chen introduced a mask mandate.
Following the 2015 Zurich arrests which rocked the world federation to its core, she also oversaw the first FIFAGate trial in 2018 in which former Confederation of Brazilian Football boss Jose Maria Marin and Paraguayan strongman Juan Angel Napout were convicted.
Lopez and Martinez are former top executives of Fox International Channels in court for alleged bribery. Argentine media company Full Play Group SA is also on trial for the same alleged conduct.
The government and prosecutor are once again relying on their star witness – Alejandro Burzaco, a former Argentine media executive who once partnered with Lopez and Martinez in a joint venture between Fox and his company, Torneos y Competencias SA. During the 2018 trial he accused Fox of bribing officials, an accusation the company denied at the time.
His testimony so far has been damning for the two former FOX executives, having claimed that Lopez and Martinez paid more than $30 million in bribes to Conmebol officials to win the broadcast rights for the Copa Libertadores, South America’s flagship club competition.
The trial is expected to resume later this week.
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