Broad­cast­ers bribed Fifa of­fi­cials with mil­lions to se­cure TV rights, court told

The Guardian - Sport - - Football - Oliver Laugh­land New York

Some of the world’s largest broad­cast­ers, in­clud­ing Fox Sports, were in­volved in brib­ing Fifa of­fi­cials in order to se­cure broad­cast rights to South Amer­i­can foot­ball tournaments, a wit­ness in the in­quiry into cor­rup­tion at foot­ball’s gov­ern­ing body has told a New York fed­eral court.

Ale­jan­dro Burzaco, the for­mer CEO of Tor­neos y Com­pe­ten­cias, a sports mar­ket­ing com­pany in Ar­gentina, tes­ti­fied that five other com­pa­nies he had part­nered with, in­clud­ing Brazil’s Globo net­work and Mex­ico’s Grupo Tele­visa, had bribed Fifa of­fi­cials dur­ing his ten­ure.

Burzaco gave ev­i­dence on the sec­ond day of the trial of three for­mer South Amer­i­can foot­ball ad­min­is­tra­tors charged with ac­cept­ing mil­lions of dol­lars in bribes. The hear­ing is part of a fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion into en­demic cor­rup­tion at Fifa re­sult­ing in more than 40 crim­i­nal charges filed against foot­ball and mar­ket­ing ex­ec­u­tives.

Burzaco has al­ready pleaded guilty to rack­e­teer­ing, wire fraud and money-laun­der­ing con­spir­a­cies af­ter he was in­dicted in 2015, and has since been as­sist­ing US au­thor­i­ties. He is one of 23 peo­ple to have pleaded guilty al­ready.

The court heard how Burzaco had paid reg­u­lar bribes, of­ten six fig­ure sums, pri­mar­ily to six se­nior of­fi­cials of the South Amer­i­can foot­ball foun­da­tion, Conmebol, in ex­change for the broad­cast rights to the Copa Lib­er­ta­dores.

Prose­cu­tors fo­cused on T&T, a sports mar­ket­ing com­pany that has, since 2002, been jointly owned by Tor­neos y Com­pe­ten­cias and Fox Pan Amer­i­can Sports and held the rights to the tour­na­ment.

The court was pre­sented with a se­ries of con­tracts be­tween Conmebol and T&T re­lat­ing to the ex­ten­sion of broad­cast rights for the 2008 tour­na­ment. Burzaco told the court he had paid se­nior of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing the Ar­gen­tinian foot­ball ex­ec­u­tive and for­mer se­nior Fifa vice pres­i­dent Julio Gron­dona, and the for­mer Conmebol pres­i­dent Ni­colás Leoz, a range of “special bribes” rang­ing be­tween $500,000 and $1m to se­cure the ex­ten­sion.

The money was in ad­di­tion to an­nual bribes, be­tween $300,000 and $1m, the six se­nior Conmebol of­fi­cials were al­ready re­ceiv­ing from T&T for the rights to tour­na­ment.

T&T, Burzaco said, had cre­ated a sham com­pany to pay out the one-off cash sums. The court saw a con­tract be­tween T&T and an en­tity named Somer­ton for $3.7m. “It’s not a real con­tract, sir,” Burzaco con­ceded as he told the court the money had gone to pay off the of­fi­cials.

Ale­jan­dro Burzaco told a New York court a sham com­pany was formed to pay Fifa of­fi­cials in order to se­cure TV rights

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.