NEW YORK (AP) – The U.S. government’s star witness in a corruption trial over the broadcasting rights to some of soccer’s biggest events testified Wednesday that 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 tainted corruption scandal that goes back nearly a decade and has ensnared more than three dozen executives and associates in the world’s most popular sport.
The witness, Alejandro Burzaco, claims he and former Fox executives Hernan Lopez and Carlos Martinez conspired to bribe South American soccer officials for the television rights to the Southern Hemisphere’s biggest annual tournament, the Copa Libertadores, and help the country broadcast rights to the Most sports. Lucrative competition, the World Cup.
“The bribes fulfilled the purpose extremely well,” Burzako testified.
Lawyers for Lopez and Martinez decided that the former executives should be framed, with one defense attorney accusing Burzako of creating the bribes.
During his first day on the witness stand Wednesday, Burazco told the court about the fake contracts that were set up with soccer officials to funnel the bribes.
He said that the payments that Lopez and Martinez are accused of making to South American Football Confederation officials helped Fox squeeze out competitors and secured the rights to tournaments for below market costs.
Lopez, a native of Argentina, is the former chief executive of Fox International Channels and later operated a podcasting venture. Martinez, a native of Mexico, headed up 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 allegations against the company involve different television rights. Full Play, incorporated in Uruguay, is accused of paying bribes for the right to the Copa America, a quadrennial national team competition, as well as qualifying for the World Cup.
Prosecutors are expected to question Burzako until at least Friday, after which it will be the defense attorneys.
The New York-based Fox Corp., which was spun off 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.
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 corporate reshuffle.
“This case involves a legacy business that has no connection to the new FOX Corporation,” the statement said.
So far, more than two dozen people have pleaded guilty and two people have been convicted in a trial in connection with a US-led investigation into tens of millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks at the highest level of soccer. Four corporate entities also pleaded guilty. Four other companies were charged but reached agreements with the government to avoid prosecution.
The soccer world’s governing body, FIFA, said it was not involved in any fraud or conspiracies and was merely a bystander as the scandal unfolded.
Nevertheless, the scandal brought the organization all over the world. It has since sought to polish His faded image.
Last month’s World Cup final in Qatar, where Argentina prevailed over France In a dramatic title-clinching shootout, it was the most-watched soccer game ever in the United States, according to television audience estimates.
During opening arguments Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney
Prosecutors allege that the payoffs allowed Lopez and Martinez to allow Fox to obtain confidential information from high-ranking soccer officials, including those at FIFA, which allowed its $425 million bid to beat rival ESPN and secure U.S. it. Broadcast rights to the 2018 and 2022 world. Caps.
Burzaco is a former business partner of the two men and headed an Argentine marketing company. He has cooperated in previous soccer corruption cases following his own bribery arrest in 2015 in a bid, his critics argue, to avoid jail time.
Burzako pleaded guilty to conspiracy and other charges. He testified in 2017 that all three South Americans on the FIFA executive committee took millions of dollars to support Qatar’s bid for the recently concluded 2022 World Cup.