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