Argentine broadcasting company “Torneos” (Tournaments) agreed to pay US $112.8 in order to settle charges pressed by American federal prosecutors regarding its involvement in the corruption scandal surrounding FIFA, also known as FIFA Gate.
The prosecutors of the task force led by U.S Attorney General Loretta Lynch had charged the company with bribing representatives from FIFA and the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) in exchange for obtaining broadcasting rights for football competitions and events.
However, the settlement only directly affects the company, meaning the people who ran it when the crimes were committed and were also charged have not been left of the hook just yet. Nonetheless, Torneos’ General Manager, Ignacio Galarza, told Clarín that “It’s an important day for the company; we can see things with optimism.”
The same outlet reported that Torneos agreed to pay a US $23.7 million fine and another US $89 million, thus giving up every bit of profit the company made as a result of the ill-gotten contracts.
Torneos held the broadcasting rights of Argentine football between 1992 and 2009, before the Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administration bought them through the “Fútbol Para Todos” program to transmit it for free (it’s not free, we all paid for it with our taxes, but you get the concept).
Moreover, the company currently still holds 50 percent of the channel TyC Sports’ shares and also own Fox Sports Latin America. Both channels together broadcast the World Cup Qualifiers’ matches as well as South American competitions such as the Copa Libertadores and the Copa Sudamericana.
After the FIFA Gate surfaced, it was evidence surfaced that Torneos’ ousted CEO, Alejandro Burzaco, had paid roughly US $370 million in bribes to get the broadcasting rights of the Copa Libertadores — the South American equivalent of Europe’s Champions League — for 14 years.
Burzaco, who went on the run after the FBI requested his detainment, turned himself in while in Italy on June 10th. He was then extradited to the US and later released from custody after paying a US $20 million bail. While still awaiting sentencing, he plead guilty of unlawful association, conspiracy to commit fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
“Torneos and I took advantages of those payments both directly and indirectly, being guaranteed those rights through an offshore company of which Torneos was a shareholder. That company was capable of commercializing and Torneos was capable of successfully producing the tournaments reached by those rights,” stated Burzaco during his confession on November 16th to the FBI. Those involved were removed from the company.
Among the tournaments whose rights they had unlawfully acquired were the “Copa Libertadores, Copa Sudamericana, the Copa America, the 2018, 2022, 2026 and 2030 editions of the World Cup and several friendly matches.”
Regarding the contracts signed by the former administration regarding future broadcasts, the company’s new representatives said they are holding negotiations with FIFA in order to keep them.
Looks like Burzaco will have to catch the games on TV this time around.