Argentina firm to pay $161m to settle Fifa corruption case

NEW YORK • United States prosecutors on Tuesday announced an agreement allowing Argentinian sports communications firm Torneos y Competencias SA to pay about US$112.8 million (S$161 million) to settle charges stemming from a sweeping bribery probe targeting Fifa, football's world governing body.

The deferred prosecution agreement with Torneos, whose former chief executive pleaded guilty last year to engaging in schemes to bribe football officials, was approved by US District Judge Pamela Chen at a hearing in federal court in Brooklyn.

Under the deal, Torneos agreed to forfeit US$89 million and pay a US$23.76 million penalty.

Prosecutors charged it with one count of wire fraud conspiracy, which will be dropped if it abides by the agreement's terms for four years.

Outside the court, Ignacio Galarza, the company's general manager, said he welcomed the agreement, which is the first with a company in the Fifa corruption probe.

"Today is a great day for us as we start to leave this investigation behind," Galarza said.

  • $161m Amount that Argentinian media company Torneos y Competencias SA has agreed to pay for prosecutors to drop charges of wire fraud conspiracy against it.

In a statement, Brooklyn US Attorney Robert Capers said the company cooperated and is "being given a chance to change the way the business of soccer is done in the future".

As part of the agreement, the company said it would implement internal compliance and accounting controls.

The company is one of 43 people and entities charged as part of a US investigation that up-ended Zurich-based Fifa and the football world.

To date, 20 people and two related companies have pleaded guilty in connection with the probe.

Torneos is 40 per cent owned by DirecTV, which AT&T Inc acquired last year.

In August last year, DirecTV valued its stake at US$147 million, but said its investment could be adversely impacted by the probe.

Prosecutors said Torneos paid bribes and kickbacks to high-ranking football officials over 15 years to obtain lucrative media and marketing rights for international football tournaments.

Torneos paid millions of dollars in bribes to acquire the broadcasting rights for the 2018, 2022, 2026 and 2030 World Cup games in several South American countries, according to court documents.

The court documents also say that Torneos paid millions of dollars in annual bribes to support its affiliate, T&T Sports Marketing.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 15, 2016, with the headline 'Argentina firm to pay $161m to settle Fifa corruption case'. Print Edition | Subscribe