Two former executives of US media giant Fox on Monday were charged with corruption, bank fraud and money laundering as US federal prosecutors shed fresh light on the scandal-tainted bidding war for the FIFA World Cups in 2018 and 2022.
Former 21st Century Fox employees Hernan Lopez, 49, and Carlos Martinez, 41, face charges, along with 65-year-old Gerard Romy, who worked for Spanish media conglomerate Imagina.
The three men are accused of paying millions in bribes to officials from the governing bodies for soccer in South America, and North America, Central America and the Caribbean.
The charges allege the bribes were paid in exchange for lucrative TV rights contracts for regional competitions, the Copa America, and qualifying games for the two World Cups.
The case forms part of the wide-ranging 2015 corruption scandal that left FIFA in turmoil and led to the downfall of then-FIFA president Sepp Blatter.
An unsealed superseding indictment also detailed corruption surrounding the 2010 vote in Zurich, Switzerland, which saw FIFA award the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.
The indictment said former Brazilian FIFA member Ricardo Teixeira and late Paraguayan official Nicolas Leoz, both members of the FIFA committee which voted on the tournaments, received bribes in exchange for voting for Qatar’s bid.
In addition, Trinidadian FIFA official Jack Warner “was promised and received” payments totaling US$5 million to vote for Russia, while Guatemala’s Rafael Salguero was promised a US$1 million bribe to vote for Russia.
Salguero pleaded guilty to multiple corruption charges in 2016 and was banned from FIFA, while Warner, who faces charges in the US, is battling extradition to the US from Trinidad.
“The profiteering and bribery in international soccer have been deep-seated and commonly known practices for decades,” William Sweeney, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York field office, said in a statement which announced the charges against Lopez, Martinez and Romy.
“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,” the statement said. “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.”
Since the scandal erupted in 2015, the US government has accused a total of 45 people and various sports companies of more than 90 crimes, and of paying or accepting more than US$200 million in bribes.
Of the 45 accused, five have since died, while 22 pleaded guilty, of which only six have so far been sentenced.
A dozen remain in their home nations, where they face prosecution by local authorities or are fighting extradition.
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