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Fox Sports Could Be Focus of FIFA Trial in Brooklyn

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The World Cup could also be over, however the FIFA corruption scandal never seems to finish.

Nearly eight years after a series of predawn raids exposed corruption at the best levels of international soccer, and greater than five years after the conclusion of the primary trial within the Justice Department’s sprawling probe of bribery in the game, a second trial is about to start on Tuesday in federal court in Brooklyn.

Over again, the defendants stand accused of being involved in complex schemes to pay tens of millions of dollars in exchange for the rights to matches. Over again, prosecutors are expected to concentrate on the identical tournaments and to depend on most of the same witnesses. They are going to make their arguments before the identical judge in the identical courtroom and, they hope, they’ll add three more convictions to the long-running case’s already impressive ledger: to this point, the federal government has netted 29 convictions within the case.

But after years of specializing in soccer officials and sporting bureaucrats, the brand new trial has the potential for a dramatic twist: revelations concerning the involvement of one in every of FIFA’s most significant media partners, Fox Corporation, in a secretive scheme to pay tens of millions of dollars in bribes to reinforce its position in international soccer — and to seize the game’s biggest broadcasting prize, the rights to the World Cup itself, from a rival network.

Fox itself just isn’t on trial. However the indisputable fact that two of its former executives have been accused of orchestrating bribes, hiding payments and trafficking in insider information could damage the popularity of the $17 billion media giant. It could also breathe fresh relevance right into a corruption investigation that when captured worldwide attention but which way back faded from the news.

Because the conclusion of the last trial, FIFA, soccer’s governing body, which is predicated in Zurich, has managed to stage two World Cups — in Russia in 2018 and Qatar last yr — and bank record revenue, all while casting itself because the victim of its own corruption. It has been a successful strategy: Last summer, the Justice Department returned $92 million of the cash it had recovered within the case to FIFA and its federations, a part of a plan to award the soccer bodies greater than $200 million in restitution overall.

Gianni Infantino, the present FIFA president, has repeatedly made the claim that the organization he leads is now freed from corruption. However the case, at the least within the view of the Justice Department, is removed from over.

Within the trial that begins this week, Hernán López, the previous chief executive of Fox International Channels, and Carlos Martínez, who served as president of the subsidiary’s Latin American operations, face wire fraud and money laundering charges. Prosecutors have accused them of running a scheme to pay bribes to “advance the interests of Fox” and help the corporate secure television broadcast rights to each the favored Copa Libertadores, the South American club championship, and the World Cup. If found guilty, López and Martínez withstand 20 years in prison.

A 3rd defendant within the trial, the Argentine sports marketing firm Full Play Group SA, faces a laundry list of charges for what prosecutors described as years of bribe-paying to win rights to tournaments. If convicted, it could join a brief and ignominious list of corporations found guilty of felonies in the US, amongst them banks, energy corporations and the Trump Organization.

Lawyers for all three defendants declined to debate the case, as did a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Recent York. But recent convictions in federal court could help prosecutors justify the tens of millions of dollars spent on an investigation that began in secret greater than a dozen years ago and way back greater than proved its point: that global soccer has a profound corruption problem and — critically — that just about nothing is outside the reach of American justice.

The trial in Brooklyn, which is predicted to last 4 to 6 weeks, largely concerns activities in South America. In keeping with the March 2020 indictment, López, who holds American and Argentine citizenship, and Martínez, a dual citizen of the US and Mexico, helped pay and conceal “annual bribe and kickback payments” to at the least 14 soccer officials to secure television rights to 2 lucrative annual club championships, the Copa Libertadores and the Copa Sudamericana.

Prosecutors also contend that López and Martínez used relationships forged through bribes to acquire “confidential information” from a top FIFA executive from Argentina that helped the corporate secure the American broadcast rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Rights to the event had been held by ESPN because the 1994 edition of the tournament, but in 2011, Fox announced it had snatched them away. 4 years later, FIFA announced it had also awarded Fox rights to the incredibly lucrative 2026 World Cup, to be held in the US, Canada and Mexico, without a lot as giving ESPN a likelihood to bid.

The allegations involving Fox appear to match 2017 trial testimony given by Alejandro Burzaco, the previous chief executive of the Argentine sports marketing firm Torneos, who pleaded guilty within the case and has been cooperating with the federal government.

Because the prosecution’s star witness, he claimed López and Martínez helped cover up $3.7 million in bribes by utilizing a phony contract with a firm partially owned by Fox.

Fox has denied any knowledge of any bribes, saying on the time that “any suggestion that Fox Sports knew of or approved of any bribes is emphatically false.” López and Martínez have emphatically denied the costs against them in court filings, claiming that any bribes would have been paid by Burzaco.

López left Fox in January 2016, seven months after the primary indictment within the FIFA case, and subsequently founded the podcasting company Wondery, which he sold to Amazon for a reported $300 million nine months after he was indicted within the soccer case.

Each his fate, and that of Martínez, may depend heavily on recent testimony from Burzaco, who’s once more expected to be the federal government’s chief witness — and, potentially, the source of any major revelations.

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