New indictments: Former Fox International executives charged in connection with U.S. World Cup media rights bid

Former Fox International Channels executives Hernan Lopez and Carlos Martinez were charged Monday with making payments to officials of the Conmebol, South American soccer’s governing body, in connection with media rights to the Copa Libertadores and other South American competitions.

But in the first case since FIFA indictments were first handed down in 2015, the new indictment related to media rights secured by a U.S. media group. The latest superseding indictment charged that through the "loyalty" secured with their bribery schemes, Lopez and Martinez obtained broadcast rights bidding information from a co-conspirator whose identify was not identified in the indictment but who would be the late Julio Grondona, based on the biography of co-conspirator No. 1 in the indictment.

Grondona was the Argentine federation president for 36 years before his death in July 2014. As chairman of FIFA's Finance Committee, Grondona was a powerful force in FIFA business.

Indictment: May 20, 2015
Superseding indictment 1: Nov. 25, 2015
Superseding indictment 2: March 18, 2020

In 2011, Fox gained the FIFA U.S. English-language rights covering eight years (2015-22) and including the 2018 and 2022 men's tournaments for a fee reported to around $425 million. After FIFA switched the dates of 2022 tournament in Qatar from June-July to November-December because of weather issues, FIFA awarded Fox and Spanish-language rights holder Telemundo rights for 2026 without competitive bidding. The switch would result in Fox likely drawing less viewers and less ad revenues because the new dates fell in the middle of the NFL season.

Fox International Channels no longer exists as an entity. In 2016, Fox separated its Latin America operations. In 2018, Disney purchased the businesses.

Also charged in the new indictment former Imagina Media Audiovisual CEO Gerard Romy and Uruguayan sports marketing company Full Play. The indictment includes charges of wire fraud and money laundering. The charges against Romy and Full Play allege racketeering conspiracy. Attorneys for Lopez and Martinez said the indictment "alleges nothing remotely improper" and was "nothing more than stale fiction."

“The profiteering and bribery in international soccer have been deep-seated and commonly known practices for decades,” William F. Sweeney Jr., assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York field office, said in a statement. “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.”

Indictment: Copa Libertadores Schemes
73. At various times in or about and between 2005 and 201 , Alejandro Burzaco and the defendants HUGO JINKIS, MARIANO JINKIS, FULL PLAY, HERNAN LOPEZ and CARLOS MARTINEZ, together with others, agreed to pay, did pay and facilitated the concealment of annual bribe and kickback payments to certain high-ranking CONMEBOL officials, including Luis Bedoya, Carlos Chavez, Rafael Esquivel, Sergio Jadue, Jose Maria Marin and Juan Angel Napout, as well as to the defendants MANUEL BURGA, LUIS CHIRIBOGA, MARCO POLO DEL NERO, EDUARDO DELUCA, EUGEN10 FIGUEREDO, JOSE LUIS MEISZNER, ROMER OSUNA and RICARDO TEIXEIRA, in exchange for the officials' support of the rights to the Copa Libertadores and other soccer events.

74. The defendants HERNAN LOPEZ and CARLOS MARTINEZ, together with others, relied on loyalty secured through the payment of bribes to certain CONMEBOL officials in connection with the Copa Libertadores to advance the business interests of Fox beyond the Copa Libertadores, including by obtaining confidential information from Co-Conspirator #1 regarding bidding for the rights to broadcast the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments in the United States.

1 comment about "New indictments: Former Fox International executives charged in connection with U.S. World Cup media rights bid".
  1. Bob Ashpole, April 7, 2020 at 8:40 a.m.

    Thanks for covering this. The Fox corporate reorganization ("Fox International Channels no longer exists as an entity") is interesting. In most white collar crime cases, prosecutors will target individuals too, as they did here.

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