KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- The media rights giant MediaPro has formally admitted that company officials paid millionaire bribes to FIFA senior executives to obtain the World Cup television contracts.
In 2018, the company founded by Jaume Roures was fined $25m on charges arising out of the sprawling FIFAGate corruption scandal which brought world football federation FIFA to its knees.
A press release issued with Roures’s authority and reported by Spanish media said: “Imagina (Mediapro’s holding company) recognises its responsibility, as a legal entity, for the criminal conduct of its representatives.
“Said criminal conduct for which Imagina was responsible included the payment of bribes for the purchase of audiovisual rights for the qualification phase in the Central American and Caribbean regions (CONCACAF) for the 2014, 2018 and 2022 World Cup in violation of United States law.”
It added that “three employees were involved in said criminal conduct, two of whom pleaded guilty to paying numerous bribes, and the third, a former co-ceo of Imagina, accepted having paid a bribe of $1.5m to acquire the rights of the qualifiers and authorised, directed and facilitated the payment of $500,000 of said total amount.
“The three were dismissed and removed from the Imagina Group or any of its subsidiaries since December 2015.”
The identities of the recipients of the bribes were not stated. Mediapro needs to clear the decks so it can proceed with renegotiation and bidding for media rights in Spain, elsewhere in Europe and the rest of the world.
Last April a US Federal Court charged former Mediapro/Imagina Media co-ceo Gerard Romy and two former Fox executives with wire fraud, money laundering and racketeering conspiracy in connection with the FIFAGate investigation.
Romy, along with Hernan Lopez and Carlos Martinez, and the Uruguayan sports marketing company Full Play Group were indicted on a number of offences relating to bribery to obtain football broadcast rights to various international tournaments.
It was alleged that Lopez and Martinzez, who had been responsible for Fox’s sports broadcasting businesses in Latin America, had joined with Full Play and others to bribe officials of South American confederation CONMEBOL to obtain rights to the Copa Libertadores.
The pair were also alleged to have bribed CONMEBOL officials to help secure confidential bidding information for the rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments in the US, rights that Fox successfully obtained.
$3m for Webb
Romy was charged with participating in bribing officials of the Caribbean Football Union and Central American Football Union, both of which operate under the CONCACAF umbrella, to secure media rights to FIFA World Cup qualifier matches organized by federations within the CFU and UNCAF.
He was alleged to have paid Jeffrey Webb, a senior official of the CFU and the president of CONCACAF, a $3m bribe in exchange for a share of a contract awarding the media and marketing rights to CFU members’ home World Cup qualifier matches for the 2018 and 2022 qualification cycles.
Webb is currently under house arrest in the United States awaiting sentence on FIFAGate charges. He was one of the seven senior world football executives detained in a dawn raid on the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich on the eve of FIFA Congress in May 2015.
Full Play, owned by father-and-son defendants Hugo Jinkis and Mariano Jinkis, was charged with taking part in schemes to bribe officials of CONMEBOL and CONCACAF in exchange for media and marketing rights to various events, including World Cup qualifying and friendly matches, the Copa Libertadores, and multiple editions of the Copa America.
A the time of the alleged offences Romy held a 12.2pc stake in Mediapro which was equivalent to those of co-founders Roures and Taxto Benet.