Testimony in an ongoing trial in a US court has implicated two of Latin America's biggest media companies in the wide-ranging FIFA corruption scandal, highlighting the potential for new revelations about the case to hit other powerful actors in the region.
The former CEO of Argentine sports communications firm Torneos y Competencias, Alejandro Burzaco, testified that Mexico's Televisa and Brazil's Globo mass media companies coordinated with his company to pay multimillion-dollar bribes to executives of the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) in order to secure media rights for the 2026 and 2030 World Cup tournaments, Reuters reported on November 15.
According to Burzaco, the companies paid a $15 million bribe to the late FIFA executive Julio Humberto Grondona at a 2013 meeting in Zurich, Switzerland to secure the lucrative broadcasting rights, ESPN FC reported. Burzaco also testified that Fox Sports, a division of the US-based media conglomerate 21st Century Fox, was involved in a similar, but separate bribe scheme.
A spokeswoman for Fox Sports told Reuters that the notion the company knew about or approved any bribes was "emphatically false." Globo said the company "does not practice nor tolerate the payment of bribes." Televisa also rejected the allegations. US prosecutors have not charged the three media companies.
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Burzaco's testimony comes just days after the start of the first US trial related to alleged corruption involving FIFA, the main international regulatory body for professional soccer.
The far-reaching criminal probe was first revealed by US prosecutors in May 2015. A total of 42 individuals and entities have since been charged in the case. Twenty-four individuals have pleaded guilty.
Defendants in the case include Manuel Burga, the former president of Peru's soccer federation; José Maria Marin, the former president of Brazil's soccer federation; and Juan Ángel Napout, the former president of Paraguay's soccer federation who was also formerly the head of South America's main soccer governing body CONMEBOL.
InSight Crime Analysis
The first trial in the FIFA corruption scandal has only just begun, but the explosive testimony of witnesses thus far -- implicating two of the region's biggest media companies -- suggests that the case could have serious ramifications for other powerful individuals and entities throughout the region.
A tragic sign of the potential impact of the trial came on November 13, when former Argentine official Jorge Alejandro Delhon committed suicide shortly after Burzaco testified that he paid $4 million in bribes to Delhon and his boss in exchange for help obtaining soccer broadcasting rights on Argentine state media.
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Soccer and organized crime have had a long history in Latin America, from match fixing to money laundering schemes and concealing criminal activities. But the revelations that the graft in the FIFA case involved huge media companies, in addition to officials from both government and the soccer world, may be a signal of the magnitude of the revelations yet to be made.