FILE PHOTO: Hernan Lopez, former executive of 21st Century Fox and Full Play Group, arrives at Federal Court in Brooklyn New York City, U.S., March 2, 2023. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
(Reuters) – A Brooklyn federal jury on Thursday convicted a former 21st Century Fox executive and acquitted another after a trial over an alleged scheme to bribe South American soccer officials to secure lucrative broadcasting rights.
Jurors found Hernan Lopez guilty but acquitted Carlos Martinez on the same charges. South American sports marketing company Full Play Group SA was also convicted.
A cooperating witness testified that he paid tens of millions of dollars in bribes with the blessing of defendants Martinez and Lopez, both former Fox executives.
Martinez and Lopez denied wrongdoing. Their lawyers claimed that the witness, Argentine businessman Alejandro Burzaco, falsely accused the two men in hopes of getting a lighter sentence under his plea agreement with prosecutors. A lawyer for Burzaco denied those claims.
The case stems from a sweeping probe of corruption in international soccer and its governing body, FIFA, that has resulted in scores of convictions since U.S. and international authorities made their first arrests in 2015.
Jurors saw emails, contracts and business records that prosecutors say revealed a years-long plot by Martinez and Lopez to advance their careers by funneling payments to soccer officials through sham contracts and consulting agreements.
The government’s case hinged largely on testimony by Burzaco, who has yet to be sentenced. Burzaco told jurors that Martinez and Lopez were aware of and approved the scheme, which he said they discussed during multiple meetings.
Lawyers for Martinez and Lopez denied Burzaco’s account and said their clients were unaware of his scheme. None of the emails and documents cited by prosecutors directly implicated the two men in the scheme, they argued.
Prosecutors said Burzaco’s testimony was “devastating” and alleged that emails showed him discussing the bribes with Martinez and Lopez in coded terms.