Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn announced charges against two former FOX marketing executives on Monday as part of the ongoing FIFA investigation.
The U.S. attorney’s office in the Eastern District of New York is charging marketing executives Hernan Lopez and Carlos Martinez, formerly of 21st Century Fox, Inc., with wire fraud and money laundering.
Per the attorney’s release, prosecutors said their involvement helped them “obtain confidential bidding information” for the U.S. rights to the 2018 and 2022 men’s World Cups. Fox won the rights to those tournaments in 2011 and won an extension in 2015 that runs through 2026.
Prosecutors said the two men made annual payments of millions of dollars to bribe South American confederation officials to get the broadcasting rights to the Copa Libertadores and other events. Prosecutors said they “used the loyalty secured through the payment of bribes” to certain officials to “advance the business interests of Fox” and get the bidding information for the World Cup.
The idea that FOX executives bribed soccer officials for the rights has been alleged for over two years. Testimony in the FIFA trial of three former South American soccer chiefs put the station’s executives in meetings with corrupt officials. The U.S. investigation into the inner workings of international soccer was first made public in 2015.
Martinez, 51, of Florida, was the chief executive of FOX Networks in Latin America. Lopez, 49, of Los Angeles, was the former head of FOX International Channels. Prosecutors have also indicted Gerard Romy, a former co-CEO of Spanish media company Imagina, and the Uruguayan sports marketing company Full Play. They’re scheduled to be arraigned Thursday in Brooklyn.
Said IRS criminal investigation special agent-in-charge Ryan L. Korner:
“As charged in the Indictment, over a period of many years, the defendants and their co-conspirators corrupted the governance and business of international soccer with bribes and kickbacks, and engaged in criminal fraudulent schemes that caused significant harm to the sport of soccer. Their schemes included the use of shell companies, sham consulting contracts and other concealment methods to disguise the bribes and kickback payments and make them appear legitimate.”
Martinez and Lopez could face a maximum 20 years in jail.
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