A former government official during the Kirchner administration, Jorge Delhon, committed suicide yesterday after being identified as a recipient of bribes by former CEO of Argentine broadcasting company Torneos, Alejandro Burzaco, in the context of the case known as FIFAgate.
In case you don’t remember, here’s a small recap of the case: in 2015, seven FIFA high ranking officials were arrested by FBI authorities in different luxury hotels located in Zurich, Switzerland, in the context of a FIFA summit. The bureau started to build the case against them after getting former official of the United States’ football federation Chuck Blazer – who was also a FIFA official – to strike a plea deal with them.
Blazer had been suspended from FIFA for taking bribes as a CONCACAF official. At the same time, he was being investigated by American authorities for allegedly taking bribes in exchange for granting TV rights to the most important football competitions taking place in American soil. Overwhelmed by the evidence, Blazer struck a plea deal with the FBI and provided the necessary evidence to take down several high ranking officials.
14 people were indicted overall. Asides from the seven mentioned officials, there were five business leaders. Three of them were Argentine: Alejandro Burzaco and Hugo and Mariano Jinkis. It was revealed that Burzaco had paid roughly US $370 million in bribes to get the broadcasting rights of the Copa Libertadores — the South American equivalent of Europe’s Champions League — for 14 years.
Burzaco initially went on the run, but ended up turning himself in to the authorities and struck a plea deal of his own with American prosecutors. Yesterday, he officially testified for the first time and, among other things, confirmed that he had paid US$ 4 million in bribes to two officials from the Kirchner administration: Jorge Delhon and Pablo Paladino.
A few hours after Burzaco made the allegations, Delhon, a 52-year-old lawyer, threw himself under a train in the district of Lanús, where he lived. The event was confirmed by the train driver, who said he saw how Delhon run to the formation.
The other accused, Paladino, addressed the media this morning. Paladino was the coordinator of state-run program “Fútbol Para Todos,” which broadcast first and second division Argentine football matches between 2009 and mid 2017. He rejected the accusations made by Burzaco and talked about Delhon’s decision to commit suicide. “I told him to come over, because it was our fight. He told me he was coming and I waited for him. I told him I was the person responsible and for that reason I was going to be the one to talk to press,” he said in a radio interview.
“Jorge Delhon was an honorable man. He took the subway or the train to go to work, and a shameless man like Burzaco made us lose him,” he added, arguing Burzaco deliberately lied about them taking bribes in an attempt to improve his legal situation.
In another passage of the interview, Paladino denied having taken bribes and pointed his finger at the former President, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, her son Máximo and the Legal and Technical Secretary during the last period of her second administration, Carlos Zannini. “They were the ones who sat down with [late AFA President Julio] Grondona to talk. We never discussed operational matters,” he said.
However, former Cabinet Chief Aníbal Fernández, whose ministry coordinated the Fútbol Para Todos program, came out to say that he didn’t believe the former President or her son could have been involved. He didn’t say the same about Zannini. “Those things were always discussed with him,” Fernández said in a radio interview.