Last May, almost a year after Russia staged the World Cup, Gianni Infantino, who came out of relative obscurity to secure the FIFA presidency after the corruption scandal took down almost all of the organization’s senior leadership, received the Order of Friendship medal from President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.
Two of the sports media executives who were charged in Monday’s indictments, Hernan Lopez and Carlos Martinez, formerly worked for international subsidiaries of 21st Century Fox. This was the first time the federal government had formally accused Fox, which won the rights to televise the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, or any of its executives of wrongdoing.
During the 2017 trial, Burzaco accused Fox of bribing officials, an accusation that the company denied at the time.
Lopez, 49, was the president and chief executive of Fox International Channels, and Martinez, 51, was the president of Fox Networks Group Latin America. According to the prosecutors, the pair participated in a scheme that paid millions of dollars in bribes to officials of South America’s continental soccer federation, in order to direct how the officials awarded broadcast rights for the Copa Libertadores, South America’s premier club soccer competition.
They are also accused of using inside information to help Fox win the English-language rights in the United States to televise the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Lopez and Martinez “relied on loyalty secured through the payment of bribes,” according to the indictment. Among other things, the prosecutors said, the bribes helped Fox obtain confidential information “regarding bidding for the rights to broadcast the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments in the United States.”
Through their lawyers, Lopez and Martinez denied the charges and accused the U.S. government of pushing forward a thin case.
“The indictment contains nothing more than single paragraph about Mr. Lopez that alleges nothing remotely improper,” Matthew Umhofer, a lawyer for Lopez, said in statement. Steven McCool, a lawyer for Martinez, called the charges “nothing more than stale fiction.”