Former Fox Executives Among Those Charged in World Cup Bribery Probe

Hernan Lopez and Carlos Martinez were named in a federal indictment handed down by U.S. prosecutors

Soccer balls at a UEFA EURO 2016 quarter final match. (VI Images via Getty Images)
Soccer balls at a UEFA EURO 2016 quarter final match. (VI Images via Getty Images)
VI-Images via Getty Images
By Evan Bleier / April 7, 2020 10:03 am

A pair of former executives at Fox were among those named in a federal indictment handed down by U.S. prosecutors yesterday that details alleged bribery related to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments.

According to the indictment, former Fox executives Hernan Lopez and Carlos Martinez have been charged with making millions of dollars of payments to officials from South American governing body CONMEBOL to help their network pry the rights to broadcast the tournament away from ESPN. ESPN had U.S. English-language television rights to the World Cup from 1994-2014.

Lopez moved on from Fox and is the founder and CEO of podcast company Wondery, which helps produce The Athletic’s daily podcast and other shows.

Unsealed Monday in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, the indictment says former CONMEBOL president Nicolás Leoz and former Brazil federation president Ricardo Teixeira were bribed to vote for Qatar to host the World Cup in 2022 at the 2010 FIFA executive committee meeting.

To vote for Russia to receive the 2018 edition of the World Cup, CONCACAF president Jack Warner received $5 million in bribes from 10 different shell companies and Guatemala federation president Rafael Salguero was promised $1 million in 2010, according to the indictment.

During the vote at that 2010 FIFA executive committee meeting, FIFA awarded the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar over strong contenders like England, Spain and the U.S. More than half of the 22 FIFA members who voted that day are no longer members of the organization. 

“The profiteering and bribery in international soccer have been deep-seated and commonly known practices for decades,” New York FBI field office assistant director William F. Sweeney Jr. said in a statement. “Over a period of many years, the defendants and their co-conspirators corrupted the governance and business of international soccer with bribes and kickbacks, and engaged in criminal fraudulent schemes that caused significant harm to the sport of soccer. Their schemes included the use of shell companies, sham consulting contracts and other concealment methods to disguise the bribes and kickback payments and make them appear legitimate.”

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