November 15, 2017 / 10:14 PM / in a month

Televisa, Globo paid FIFA bribes for 2026/2030 World Cup rights: trial witness

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

FILE PHOTO: Businessman Alejandro Burzaco of Argentina leaves the Federal Court in Brooklyn, New York, September 18, 2015. The former chairman of an Argentina-based sports marketing business, one of 14 people indicted in a corruption case that has roiled the soccer world's governing body FIFA, returned to U.S. court on Friday (September 18). REUTERS/John Taggart

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 Inc, were partners in a sports marketing venture, T&T Sports Marketing Ltd.

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.

A Televisa spokesman on Wednesday denied “any wrongdoing” in the case. “In particular, Grupo Televisa in no way knew of, or condoned, any bribe or other improper conduct,” spokesman Alejandro Olmos wrote in an email.

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

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 secure rights for soccer tournaments, and they promised millions more to each in future payments.

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

Additional reporting by Julia Love in Mexico City; Editing by Grant McCool and Cynthia Osterman

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