Fox Sports came under scrutiny Tuesday when a witness in the ongoing FIFA corruption trial testified the TV sports giant paid bribes to get into the lucrative South American soccer market.
Alejandro Burzaco, an ex-Argentinian soccer businessman who’s already pleaded guilty to doling out bribes in the Brooklyn federal graft case, made the revelation Tuesday.
He identified Fox Sports as one of the media outlets that greased palms to get in on widely-watched games. The other companies he mentioned are in South America and Spain.
Burzaco formerly led Torneos y Competencias, a company that gained access to the rights for various tournaments. Fox Pan American Sports was in on a joint venture with Torneos y Competencias. Fox hasn’t been charged in the case, but Torneos y Competencias has entered a deferred prosecution agreement.
Brooklyn federal prosecutors introduced one 2008 agreement where the venture set aside $3.7 million, which made its way to various soccer officials.
Burzaco is cooperating with prosecutors.
“I said Alejandro, ‘You go to the U.S., face the justice, accept the responsibility, try to fix the wrong things that you did,’” Burzaco said on the stand.
Burzaco said he paid bribes to the three ex-South American soccer presidents now on trial, Manuel Burga, Jose Maria Marin and Juan Napout. Lawyers for the men denied they took kickbacks.
But Burzaco said on the stand that there was one instance when he said he’d pay Marin, the Brazilian soccer president. Marin “gave me a hug, showed me his gratitude,” Burzaco said.
More than 20 people have already pleaded guilty in the case.
Fox Sports said in a statement that any suggestion it knew or approved of bribes was “emphatically false.”
The company noted in its statement that it “had no operational control of the entity which Burzaco ran. The entity run by Burzaco was a subsidiary of Fox Pan American Sports, which in 2008, at the time of the contract in question, was majority owned by a private equity firm and under their operational and management control.”