Hernán López | Credits: Reuters / Brendan McDermid
Hernán López, former CEO of Fox International Channels, was convicted on Thursday of paying tens of millions of dollars in bribes to nab broadcasting rights to the World Cup and other top soccer matches. Carlos Martínez, who headed the Latin America affiliate and was also being prosecuted, was acquitted.
Prosecutors said that Hernán López, who until 2016 worked for a unit of what was then known as 21st Century Fox, had taken part in a complex scheme to make millions of dollars in secret annual payments to the presidents of national soccer federations in order to secure the rights to the Copa Libertadores and the Copa Sudamericana, widely viewed South American soccer tournaments, The New York Times reported.
At the same time, a South American sports media and marketing company also was convicted of graft allegations involving different TV rights. Full Play Group SA, incorporated in Uruguay, was accused of paying bribes for the rights to the Copa America, a quadrennial national team competition, as well as to World Cup qualifying matches.
López, who holds dual American and Argentine citizenship, was convicted on one count of money laundering conspiracy and one count of wire fraud conspiracy, and faces up to 40 years in prison. Meanwhile, Full Play was convicted on six fraud and money laundering counts and, as a corporation, could face financial penalties.
Both in López and Martínez’s cases, prosecutors' star witness was the executives' former business associate Alejandro Burzaco, who has cooperated in soccer corruption investigations since his 2015 arrest in a related bribery case. However, defense lawyers said the former Fox executives were framed by “an admitted criminal who was trying to minimize his own punishment.”
John Gleeson, a lawyer for López, said in a statement that “the proceedings have involved both legal and factual errors,” and they now look forward to vindicating their client on appeal. Meanwhile, New York-based Fox Corporation, which split from a subsidiary of international channels during a restructuring in 2019, was not charged and has denied any involvement in the bribery scandal.