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U.S. prosecutors charge former Fox executives, others in FIFA corruption probe



By Brendan Pierson

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. prosecutors on Monday announced new criminal charges against two former executives of 21st Century Fox Inc (NASDAQ:) and others stemming from a long-running investigation of corruption surrounding FIFA, soccer’s world governing body.

The former Fox executives, Hernan Lopez and Carlos Martinez, were indicted in Brooklyn federal court on wire fraud and money laundering charges along with Gerard Romy, former co-chief executive of Spanish media company Imagina Media Audiovisual SL, and Full Play Group SA, an Uruguayan sports marketing company.

Prosecutors said the defendants bribed soccer officials to secure media and marketing rights to lucrative soccer tournaments, using shell companies, sham consulting contracts and other methods to conceal the scheme.

“It’s shocking that the government would bring such a thin case,” said Matthew Umhofer, a lawyer for Lopez. “Mr. Lopez can’t wait to defend himself at trial.”

“We are certain a jury will swiftly exonerate Carlos, as these charges are nothing more than stale fiction,” said Steven McCool, a lawyer for Martinez.

Lawyers for Romy and Full Play could not immediately be reached for comment.

According to the indictment, Lopez, 49, served as chief executive officer of a Latin American Fox subsidiary, while and Martinez, 51, served as its president. They worked with Full Play to channel millions of dollars to officials at CONMEBOL, the South American soccer federation, in exchange for rights to the Copa Libertadores, the region’s most popular club tournament, and other events, prosecutors said.

Romy, 65, took part in a scheme to bribe officials of the Caribbean Football Union and Central American Football Union to secure rights to World Cup qualifying matches, prosecutors said.

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The alleged illegal conduct occurred before the Walt Disney (NYSE:) Co. acquired most of 21st Century Fox Inc.

The U.S. investigation into corruption in the world of soccer became public in 2015 with the announcement of criminal charges against a slew of officials and others.

Two officials – Juan Angel Napout of Paraguay, former head of South American governing body CONMEBOL, and former Brazilian soccer chief Jose Maria Marin – were convicted after a trial in 2017. Many other defendants have pleaded guilty.

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