On Monday, April 6, 2020, US prosecutors have charged two former 21st Century Fox Inc. (Fox) executives in relation to a millions of dollars soccer bribery case around FIFA, the apex world governing body of soccer.
In the long-running investigation of corruption cases surrounding FIFA, the prosecutors, in its latest move, filed a lawsuit against the executives alleging that they involved in paying bribes to secure lucrative media and marketing rights to soccer matches in the US.
Charge Against Executives and Media Houses
The alleged charges were filed against former Fox executives, Hernan Lopez and Carlos Martinez, in Brooklyn federal court on wire fraud and money laundering charges along with Gerard Romy, former co-chief executive of a Spanish media company, Imagina Media Audiovisual SL, and Full Play Group SA (Full Play), an Uruguayan sports marketing company.
Without identifying any of the newly charged defendants, prosecutors also claimed in Monday’s indictment that FIFA officials were also involved in taking bribes related to the lottery bid for Qatar and Russia’s securing to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, respectively.
According to the prosecutors’ indictment, Lopez (49) was working as the chief executive officer of a Latin American Fox subsidiary, while Martinez (51) as the president of the company when the bribe was taken place. Prosecutors further said, both of them associated with Full Play to bribe officials at CONMEBOL, the South American soccer federation, in exchange for rights to events including the Copa Libertadores club tournament.
The US officials added that Romy (65) helped in bribing officials of the Caribbean Football Union and Central American Football Union to secure rights to World Cup qualifying matches.
Denying the Charges
The US investigation on the bribery cases connected to FIFA became public in 2015 with the announcement of criminal charges against more than 40 people and out of these people, 26 people have already pleaded guilty in the courts.
The former CONMEBOL head, Juan Angel Napout (61) of Paraguay and former chief of the Brazilian soccer team, Jose Maria Marin (87) were convicted after a trial in 2017 and sentenced to prison. However, Marin was granted early release last month on the ground of health risk which could be easily exposed by the coronavirus pandemic while Napout has also been seeking his early release.
Nevertheless, Fox executives have denied such allegations and claimed to be innocent of the crimes. Matthew Umhofer, a lawyer for Lopez, said, “It’s shocking that the government would bring such a thin case.”
Similarly, Steven McCool, a lawyer for Martinez, said that the charges against his client were “nothing more than stale fiction.” Carlos Ortiz, a lawyer representing Full Play denied the charge and defended, “Our client looks forward to vigorously defending itself against all of the charges at trial.”
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