NEW YORK (AP) — Fox Sports partnered with a South American marketing firm to make millions of dollars in bribes to high-ranking soccer officials in exchange for broadcasting rights to major tournaments, the marketing company’s former CEO testified Tuesday at a U.S. corruption trial.
Alejandro Burzaco, former CEO of the firm based in Argentina, testified that Fox and other broadcasters were involved in a scheme to pay bribes through sham contracts that secured rights for the Copa America and other events.
As evidence of the scheme, prosecutors at the trial at a federal court in New York City produced a 2008 agreement for the partnership to pay $3.7 million to a holding company in Turks and Caicos that was a conduit for the bribes. They say it was signed by a former Fox executive.
Asked whom he kept informed about the bribe arrangements, Burzaco responded, “Fox Pan American Sports. . Fox Sports.”
Through the bribes, the network “gained leverage and rights to broadcast its signal to Argentina” and other parts of the world, he added.
Fox Sports didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.
Burzaco said other broadcasters, including Televisa, Media Pro, TV Globo, Full Play Argentina, and Traffic had all paid bribes for soccer rights.
The accusation came on the second day of the U.S. trial of three former South American soccer officials accused of taking bribes in a sprawling corruption investigation of FIFA, sport’s governing body. Burzaco, who has pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and other charges, has emerged as a key witness against Jose Maria Marin, Manuel Burga and Juan Angel Napout.
The former officials, who have pleaded not guilty, are the first to face trial in the investigation accusing them of taking part in a 24-year scheme involving at least $150 million in bribes. More than 40 other officials have pleaded guilty in hopes of receiving reduced sentences.
On Tuesday, Burzaco was asked to point out the three defendants in the courtroom while testifying that he bribed all of them. He also told jurors how Julio Grondona, a powerful South American soccer official who died in 2104, had received cash bribes.
After being charged in 2015, Burzaco testified that he briefly went into hiding before deciding to cooperate.
“I said, ‘Alejandro, you go to the United States and face justice,'” he said about the decision. “‘Accept responsibility.'”