(CMR) Former 21st Century Fox executive Hernan Lopez was found guilty on Thursday in an alleged scheme to bribe FIFA officials for lucrative soccer game broadcasting rights.
Lopez was convicted by a New York jury of conspiring to commit wire fraud and launder money, but co-defendant Carlos Martinez was acquitted on the same charge.
Argentinian sports marketing company Full Play Group S.A. was also convicted in the alleged scheme.
“Today’s verdict is a resounding victory for justice and for soccer fans around the world. The defendants cheated by bribing soccer officials to act in their own greedy interests rather than in the best interests of the sport,” stated United States Attorney Breon Peace.
“The verdict today reflects this Office’s ongoing commitment to rooting out corruption at the highest levels. Companies and individuals alike should understand that, regardless of their wealth or power, they will be brought to justice if they use the U.S. financial system to further corrupt ends,” Peace added.
This conviction is the latest accomplishment in the investigation of corruption in international soccer being led by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of New York, the FBI’ s New York Field Office and the IRS-CI Los Angeles Field Office. Criminal charges have been brought against more than 50 defendants from more than 20 countries, resulting to date in guilty pleas by more than 30 individual and corporate defendants and trial convictions of 3 individuals and 1 corporation.
In addition, 2 corporations have resolved via deferred prosecution agreements and 3 corporations have resolved via non-prosecution agreements. Each has agreed to pay substantial financial penalties.
Prosecutors said Lopez engaged in an alleged scheme to pay millions of dollars in bribes to South American soccer officials in order to secure broadcasting rights the Copa Libertadores — the region’s most popular club tournament, among other events.
He also “relied on loyalty secured through the payment of bribes” to advance the business interests of Fox, including to obtain confidential bidding information for the rights to broadcast the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments in the U.S., rights which Fox successfully obtained,” the U.S. Attorney's office said.
Lopez faces up to 40 years in prison and millions of dollars in penalties, per the U.S. Attorney's office.