Judge Vacates Convictions in Bribery Case Over Soccer Broadcast Deals

Less than six months after a federal jury convicted a former Fox employee and an Argentine sports marketing company of participating in a scheme to pay bribes in exchange for lucrative soccer broadcasting contracts, a judge in Brooklyn vacated the convictions on Friday.

In a 55-page ruling, the judge, Pamela K. Chen, concluded that the federal wire fraud statute under which the defendants had been convicted did not apply to their actions.

In a seven-week trial that ended in March, prosecutors alleged that Hernán López, who holds dual American and Argentine citizenship and who until 2016 worked for a unit of what was then known as 21st Century Fox, had been part of a scheme to make millions of dollars in secret annual payments to the presidents of national soccer federations in order to secure the rights to two widely viewed South American soccer tournaments.

Mr. Lopez — who prosecutors also said had leveraged loyalty he garnered through bribes to help Fox beat out ESPN in its bid for the U.S. broadcasting rights for the 2018 and 2022 men’s World Cups — was convicted on one count of money laundering conspiracy and one count of wire fraud conspiracy. He faced up to 40 years in prison.

Prosecutors said that Mr. López’s co-defendant, the sports marketing company Full Play Group, had paid bribes for the rights to multiple World Cup qualifiers, exhibition matches and tournaments. Full Play was convicted on six fraud and money laundering counts and could have faced stiff financial penalties.

A key factor in Judge Chen’s decision, handed down late Friday, was the scope of a law under which the defendants had been charged, known as the honest services wire fraud statute.

Sahred From Source link Sports

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