By Dylan Tokar 

Two former Fox Sports executives have been charged with participating in a scheme to pay millions of dollars in bribes to soccer officials in exchange for broadcasting rights.

Hernan Lopez and Carlos Martinez helped bribe officials at Conmebol, FIFA's soccer confederation in South America, according to a U.S. indictment unsealed Monday. The two men were high-ranking executives of a Fox Sports international subsidiary, where they were responsible for developing Fox's sports broadcasting business in South America, prosecutors said.

Mr. Lopez, a 47-year-old dual U.S. and Argentine citizen, who served as chief executive of the Fox Sports subsidiary, and Mr. Martinez, a 51-year-old dual U.S. and Mexican citizen who served as the subsidiary's president, were charged with wire fraud and money laundering, according to the indictment.

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

Matthew Umhofer, a lawyer for Mr. Lopez, attacked the government for bringing the charges against his client. "The indictment contains nothing more than a single paragraph about Mr. Lopez that alleges nothing remotely improper," Mr. Umhofer said in a statement.

Prosecutors on Monday also charged Gerard Romy, a former executive of a Spanish media company, and Full Play Group SA, a sports marketing company based in Argentina, with wire fraud, money laundering and racketeering.

A lawyer for Mr. Romy declined to comment. A lawyer for Full Play said the company would plead not guilty to the charges and planned to vigorously defend itself at trial.

Prosecutors at the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York have secured 26 guilty pleas and convicted two individuals at trial as part of a sprawling corruption investigation into FIFA. Fox Sports was first implicated in the case during a trial in Brooklyn in 2017.

Fox Sports parent Fox Corp. and Wall Street Journal parent News Corp share common ownership. The subsidiary where Messrs. Lopez and Martinez worked, Fox International Channels, was absorbed by Walt Disney Co. in 2019.

Representatives for Fox Sports and Disney didn't immediately return requests for comment. A Fox Sports spokeswoman at the time of the 2017 trial said the company hadn't known or approved of any bribes.

Write to Dylan Tokar at dylan.tokar@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 06, 2020 20:51 ET (00:51 GMT)

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