Former Fox TV exec Lopez found guilty of bribing South American football bosses

March 10 – The follow-up and fall-out from the FIFAgate scandal is still working its way through US courts with the former head of Fox International Channels Hernan Lopez convicted on charges that he participated in a scheme to bribe South American soccer officials.

Lopez, alongside another former 21st Century Fox executive, Carlos Martinez, were accused on paying millions of dollars to South American football officials between 2000 and 2015 to secure exclusive broadcasting rights to the Copa Libertadores, as well as inside information on US broadcast rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments.

Lopez and Martinez were indicted in April 2020.

Jurors found Lopez guilty but Martinez was acquitted on the same charges. Lawyers for Lopez said he plans to appeal the decision.

South American sports marketing company Full Play Group SA was also convicted.

Burzaco was the also the key witness in the trial of former Brazilian FA president Jose Maria Marin, Manuel Burga of Peru and former Conmebol chief and FIFA vice-president Juan Angel Napout. They all pleaded not guilty to racketeering, money laundering and wire fraud.

At that trial in 2017 Burzaco spent four days in the witness box detailing how his firm paid tens of millions of dollars in bribes to the defendants and other officials.

Defence lawyers have argued that the trial proved the guilt not of their clients but of those sports marketing executives who had previously pleaded guilty and struck plea bargain deals to testify for the government. It was a defence argument that was used again in the trial of Lopez and Martinez with lawyers arguing Burzaco falsely accused the two men in hopes of getting a lighter sentence under his plea agreement with prosecutors.

Burzaco said that Fox Sports, Grupo Televisa SAB, Media Pro, Globo, Full Play Argentina and Traffic Group had all bribed FIFA officials for broadcast rights. Burzaco had already pleaded guilty to his role and his firm forfeited more than $110 million in December 2017. He still awaits sentencing.

“Today’s verdict is a resounding victory for justice and for soccer fans around the world,” said Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Breon Peace.

Televisa settles

In a separate but related case, Mexican media giant Grupo Televisa agreed earlier this month to pay $95 million to settle claims by investors that it paid millions in bribes to secure World Cup broadcast rights.

The lawsuit was brought by participants in Canada’s Colleges of Applied Arts & Technology Pension Plan (CAAT), which holds shares in Televisa, in August 2018, who claimed they had been misled.

Televisa in making the settlement denied any wrongdoing.

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