FIFA corruption trial: Star witness tells of bribes for Qatar 2022 votes

On the first day of testimony in the FIFA corruption trial of three South Americans -- Jose Maria Marin, Manuel Burga and Juan Angel Napout -- star witness Alejandro Burzaco, who has already pleaded guilty to racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies, told of millions of dollars in bribes made to South American soccer executives.

The core of the illegal activities Burzaco, the former CEO of Argentine-based Torneos y Competencias, testified about concerned annual or one-time payoffs of upwards of a $1 million for the media rights to the Copa Libertadores and other South American competitions.

Burzaco told of bribes of $1 million to the late Argentine soccer boss Julio Grondona and former Brazilian soccer federation president Ricardo Teixeira. Burzaco said Grondona ordered him to pay Teixeira's share because Teixeira “owed him” as “Grondona voted for Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup," the Guardian reported.

Burzaco testified the support of Grondona, Teixeira and Paraguayan Nicolas Leoz, the then-Conmebol president -- South American's three representatives on the FIFA executive committee -- for Qatar was "not a private thing."

He said Grondona did not tell him how much he received or who he received the bribes from, but Burzaco testified, according to the Guardian, that Grondona later confronted Qatari officials about media reports implicating him and told them "you will pay me $80 million or write a letter saying you never paid me." BuzzFeed's Ken Bensinger tweeted that Grondona was upset with Teixeira and former Barcelona president Sandro Rosell that he had been tricked into taking only $1.5 million for his Qatar vote.

Qatar beat the USA in a 14-8 vote of the executive committee's 22 members on the fourth round in December 2010 to win the hosting rights to the 2022 World Cup. (Burzaco also testified how Grondona and Teixeira confronted Leoz after earlier rounds of voting when he supported Japan and then South Korea and Qatar was stuck on 11 votes.)

Burzaco also charged international broadcasters, including Fox Pan American Sports, Brazilian network Globo and Mexico's Televisa had paid bribes during his tenure.

Prosecutors introduced contracts between between Conmebol, the South American confederation, and T&T, a firm jointly owned by Torneos y Competencias and Fox Pan American Sports that held rights to the Copa Libertadores, and Burzaco told of a sham contract written to disguise bribes of $3.6 million.

Fox Sports issued a statement after Tuesday's testimony denying any knowledge of T&T's activities: “Any suggestion that Fox Sports knew of or approved of any bribes is emphatically false. Fox Sports had no operational control of the entity which Burzaco ran. The entity run by Burzaco was a subsidiary of Fox Pan American Sports, which in 2008, at the time of the contract in question, was majority owned by a private equity firm [HM Capital Partners] and under their operational and management control.”

Next story loading loading..

Discover Our Publications