FIFA Bribery Testimony Haunts Televisa in Class Action

From left to right: Juan Angel Napout, Manuel Burga and Jose Maria Marin. (AP Photo/Jorge Saenz, Norman Cordova, Mary Altaffer, File)

MANHATTAN (CN) — When he implicated six FIFA media partners in 2017, a cooperating witness in the corruption scandal brought legal trouble to the doors of the largest mass-media company in the Spanish-speaking world.

“We had many partners in different parts of the world, such as Fox Sports in the U.S.; Televisa from Mexico; Media Pro from Spain; TV Globo from Brazil; Full Play from Buenos Aires, Argentina; Traffic, which is based in Brazil, but was with a branch in Miami,” said Alejandro Burzaco, the former CEO of Torneos y Competencias SA.

Testifying two years ago in the Brooklyn trial of three FIFA officials, Burzaco said that “all of the companies” had paid bribes to secure soccer media rights.

Burzaco’s dramatic testimony had been one piece that led to the convictions of Juan Angel Napout, president of South America’s football governing body Conmebol, and Jose Maria Marin, a former professional soccer player who went on to serve as president of the Brazilian football confederation.

Though the global broadcasters were not on trial as well, U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton decided Monday that Buzaco’s testimony is enough to sustain a securities class action led by the College of Applied Arts & Technology Pension Plan, a Televisa shareholder.

“Lead plaintiff points to specific evidence admitted in the Napout trial that directly implicated Televisa in the bribery scheme,” Stanton wrote.

The trial transcripts, which Stanton called “integral” to the complaint, show Burzaco saying that “Televisa from Mexico” joined him and two other partners in an agreement to pay $15 million in bribes to Argentine FIFA official Julio Humberto Grondana for broadcast rights to the 2026 and 2030 World Cups.

Televisa is accused of funneling those payments through Mountrigi Management Group Ltd., their wholly owned Swiss subsidiary.

“Burzaco’s testimony that Televisa agreed to and bribed Grondona is corroborated by the Torneos ledger, which shows that Mountrigi made a $7.25 million payment for the 2026 and 2030 World Cup rights in a bank sub-account dedicated to Grondona,” the ruling states.

David Rosenfeld, an attorney for the class with the firm Robbins Geller, and Herbert Wachtell, an attorney for Televisa at Wachtell Lipton, did not respond to requests for comment.

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