Two former senior executives at 21st Century Fox pleaded not guilty on Thursday to charges relating to the firm's successful bids to broadcast the 2018 and 2022 editions of the World Cup, the Guardian's Oliver Laughland reports.
Hernan Lopez, who was CEO of Fox International Channels, and Carlos Martinez, former president of Fox Latin America, "relied on loyalty secured through the payment of bribes" to boost the company's business and obtain "confidential bidding information" which may have helped Fox beat ESPN and others to the American TV rights, according to U.S. prosecutors.
Additionally, Lopez and Martinez are accused of using similar tactics to capture the broadcasting rights to the Copa Libertadores. The pair were granted bail set at $15 million.
The wire fraud and money laundering charges refer to the period before Rupert Murdoch sold 21st Century Fox to Disney for $71 billion in March 2019. Fox and Disney declined the Guardian's request for comment.
The investigations into Lopez's and Martinez's alleged wrongdoing are part of the U.S. government's widespread crackdown on bribery and corruption in world football.
Twenty-six individuals have pleaded guilty as part of the probe, with two former South American administrators - Jose Maria Marin, the ex-chief of Brazil's Football Confederation, and Juan Angel Napout, who led the region's governing body CONMEBOL - convicted for multiple charges at trial in December 2017.