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Broadcasters Have Been Accused of Paying a $15 Million Bribe for FIFA World Cup Rights

November 15, 2017

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The FIFA logo next to the entrance to the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland on May 27, 2015.Philipp Schmidli—Getty Images

A prosecution witness in the corruption trial of three former soccer officials testified on Wednesday that Mexico’s Grupo Televisa (GRUPO-TELEVISA-A) and Brazil’s Globo (GOBLF) took part in a $15 million bribe to a FIFA executive to secure media rights to the 2026 and 2030 World Cup tournaments.

Alejandro Burzaco, the former head of sports marketing company Torneos y Competencias, testified for a second day in a U.S. court, adding details to Tuesday’s testimony that Televisa, Globo and Fox Sports had been involved in bribery.

In the first trial to be heard in a U.S. investigation of bribery surrounding FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, Burzaco told jurors in federal court in Brooklyn on Wednesday that Torneos, Televisa and Globo paid the bribe to Julio Humberto Grondona, a FIFA executive who died in 2014.

Burzaco said Torneos and Fox Sports, a unit of Twenty-First Century Fox (FOX), were partners in a sports marketing venture, T&T Sports Marketing.

Fox Sports spokeswoman Terri Hines said Tuesday that the T&T partnership was with a Fox Sports affiliate, Fox Pan American Sports, that was majority-owned by a private equity firm, and that Fox Sports had “no operational control” over T&T.

“Any suggestion that Fox Sports knew of or approved of any bribes is emphatically false,” she said.

Globo said on Tuesday that it “does not practice nor tolerate the payment of bribes,” and would cooperate with U.S. authorities. It could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Televisa declined to comment on Tuesday, and could not immediately be reached Wednesday.

The three media companies have not been charged in the U.S. case.

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Jorge Delhon, an Argentine lawyer who formerly worked for the government-run soccer television program Futbol Para Todos (Soccer for All), committed suicide late Tuesday, hours after Burzaco testified that he took bribes, Argentine police said.

The three former officials on trial in Brooklyn are Juan Ángel Napout, former president of the South American soccer governing body CONMEBOL and Paraguay’s soccer federation; Manuel Burga, former president of Peru’s soccer federation; and José Maria Marin, former president of Brazil’s soccer federation.

At the end of his testimony on Wednesday, Burzaco said that his company and its partners paid a total of $4.5 million in bribes to Napout, $2.7 million to Marin and $3.6 million to Burga to securerights for soccer tournaments, and they promised millions more to each in future payments.

In opening statements Monday, their lawyers denied that they took bribes.