March 9 (Reuters) – A Brooklyn federal jury on Thursday convicted a former 21st Century Fox executive and acquitted another after a trial over an alleged scheme to bribe South American soccer officials to secure lucrative broadcasting rights.
Jurors found Hernan Lopez guilty but acquitted Carlos Martinez on the same charges. South American sports marketing company Full Play Group SA was also convicted.
An attorney for Lopez, John Gleeson, said in a statement that he was disappointed with the verdict but looked forward to appealing based on “legal and factual errors” in the case.
Martinez’s attorney, Steven McCool, told reporters he was “tremendously grateful to the jury for bringing justice to Carlos.”
Lawyers for Full Play Group did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
A cooperating witness testified at trial that he paid tens of millions of dollars in bribes with the blessing of defendants Martinez and Lopez, both former Fox executives.
The case stems from a sweeping probe of corruption in international soccer and its governing body, FIFA, that has resulted in scores of convictions since U.S. and international authorities made their first arrests in 2015.
“Today’s verdict is a resounding victory for justice and for soccer fans around the world,” Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement.
Lawyers for Martinez and Lopez denied wrongdoing claimed that the witness, Argentine businessman Alejandro Burzaco, falsely accused the two men in hopes of getting a lighter sentence under his plea agreement with prosecutors. A lawyer for Burzaco denied those claims.
Jurors saw emails, contracts and business records that prosecutors say revealed a years-long plot by Martinez and Lopez to advance their careers by funneling payments to soccer officials through sham contracts and consulting agreements.
The government’s case hinged largely on testimony by Burzaco, who has yet to be sentenced. Burzaco told jurors that Martinez and Lopez were aware of and approved the scheme, which he said they discussed during multiple meetings.
Lawyers for Martinez and Lopez denied Burzaco’s account and said their clients were unaware of his scheme. None of the emails and documents cited by prosecutors directly implicated the two men in the scheme, they argued.
Prosecutors said Burzaco’s testimony was “devastating” and alleged that emails showed him discussing the bribes with Martinez and Lopez in coded terms.
Reporting by Jack Queen; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Daniel Wallis
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