Argentine firm reaches $112.8 million deal with U.S. in FIFA probe

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 13, 2016 1:19 PM

By Mica Rosenberg and Nate Raymond

NEW YORK (Reuters) - An Argentine sports media company has agreed to pay about $112.8 million (89 million pounds) as part of a deal resolving U.S. charges stemming a wide-ranging bribery probe involving FIFA, football's world governing body, according to court documents filed on Tuesday.

The deferred prosecution agreement with Torneos y Competencias SA, whose former chief executive pleaded guilty last year to engaging in schemes to bribe football officials, was disclosed in court papers filed in federal court in Brooklyn.

Under the deal, Toreos agreed to forfeit $89 million and pay a $23.76 million penalty. Prosecutors charged it with one count of wire fraud conspiracy, which will be dropped if it abides by the deferred prosecution agreement's terms for four years.

The company is one of 43 people and entities charged as part of a U.S. investigation that upended Zurich-based FIFA and the football world. To date, 20 people and two related companies have pleaded guilty in connection with the probe.

Prosecutors said the defendants engaged in more than $200 million in bribes and kickbacks that were sought and received by football officials for marketing and broadcasting rights to tournaments and matches.

Argentina-based Torneos is 40 percent owned by DirecTV, which AT&T Inc acquired in 2015. In August 2015, DirecTV valued its stake in Torneos as worth $147 million, but said its investment could be adversely impacted by the probe.

The case against Torneos came after former CEO Alejandro Burzaco pleaded guilty in November 2015 to having agreed to pay bribes and kickbacks to multiple officials, including the South American football governing body CONMEBOL and FIFA.

Burzaco said the bribes had been paid since before he acquired a stake in Torneos in 2005. The goal was to obtain the marketing rights to various tournaments, including the 2018, 2022, 2026, and 2030 World Cup finals, he said.

In 2013, Torneos also formed a joint venture called Datisa with two other companies that agreed to pay tens of millions of dollars in bribes to CONMEBOL officials in connection with a$317.5 million contract, the indictment said.

The contract was for the rights to three Copa America tournaments as well as the 2016 Copa America Centenario, a tournament held this June to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first Copa America, the indictment said.

The case is U.S. v. Torneos y Competencias SA, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, No. 16-cr-00634.

(Reporting by Mica Rosenberg and Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Tom Brown)