Conmebol requests stay of proceedings in GolTV lawsuit as Li gets life ban
Conmebol, the South American soccer confederation, has called on a federal judge in USA to impose a stay of proceedings in a lawsuit it is facing, while the former head of the Costa Rican federation has become the latest official to be banned for life in cases related to the Fifa-gate corruption scandal.
Conmebol made the approach to the judge in Florida on the back of a similar request from the US Department of Justice, which cited a separate criminal case it is overseeing with the same underlying facts, according to the Law360 website.
The lawsuit was filed in Florida’s Southern District last October by US broadcaster GolTV and accuses executives of Conmebol and Fox Sports Latin America, an arm of the international sports broadcaster, of bribery in the award of rights to soccer tournaments in the region.
GolTV and its co-plaintiff Global Sports Partners LLP allege that they missed out on the television rights to competitions such as the Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana as a result of the bribes paid by Fox Sports Latin America executives.
The suit was prompted by the ongoing and wide-ranging US DoJ investigation into schemes in which $200 million in bribes and kickbacks concerning media and marketing rights to soccer across the Americas were alleged to have been paid to soccer officials with links to Fifa. This prompted a long list of indictments in 2015, and various individuals have been extradited to face charges in USA.
Alluding to the DoJ’s request to the Florida court, Conmebol said: “If the United States’ motion to intervene and stay is granted, it would have the effect of staying this action, including all jurisdictional discovery propounded by plaintiffs.
“As a consequence of these circumstances, the parties are uncertain whether this proceeding will be stayed and, with an eye towards conserving the parties’ – and the court’s – resources, Conmebol requests a brief stay of jurisdictional discovery, until this court decides whether this case is moving forward.”
The GolTV lawsuit claims that bribes paid to executives of Conmebol between 2000 and 2015 were channelled through T&T Sports Marketing, a Cayman Islands shell company 75-per-cent owned by Fox Sports Latin America, which has denied any wrongdoing.
In November 2015, Fox International Channels signed off an agreement with Conmebol for exclusive media rights to the Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana from 2016 to 2018.
In the process, the South American confederation
unilaterally terminated a contract with T&T, which had signed a deal with
Traffic Sports, the Brazilian sports agency also implicated in the Fifa-gate case,
to handle the rights to the clubs competitions.
In October, Fox reacted to GolTV’s legal action by describing it as an “entirely meritless claim” and said that “Fox had no operational control over any of the entities named in the Fifa indictment, and no Fox employees were implicated.”
Fox also predicted that the “lawsuit will fail just as GolTV’s previous efforts have failed.”
Also in October, Conmebol launched its own legal action in USA against marketing partner International Soccer Marketing seeking $18 million it claims to be owed from the corruption scandal.
Conmebol’s latest intervention came ahead of its Congress in the Chilean capital Santiago on Wednesday. The event will be chaired by president Alejandro Dominguez who since his election in January last year has pledged to clean up the confederation and sue companies that benefited from corrupt deals with its former leaders.
The previous three presidents – Juan Angel Napout, Eugenio Figueredo and Nicolas Leoz – were all named in the DoJ indictment.
The Fifa ethics committee announced on Friday that Eduardo Li, the former president of Fedefutbol, the Costa Rican Football Federation, and a former member of the executive committees of both Fifa and Concacaf, the governing body for soccer in North and Central America and the Caribbean, has been banned for life for his involvement in the scandal.
He has been found guilty of violating five articles of the Fifa Code of Ethics relating to: general rules of conduct; loyalty; duty of disclosure, co-operation and reporting; conflicts of interest; and bribery and corruption.
Li was one of seven Fifa officials arrested in dawn raids on a hotel in Zurich in May 2015 linked to the DoJ probe.
He was subsequently extradited to USA and last October pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering conspiracy, one count of wire fraud and one count of wire fraud conspiracy.
Li admitted to participating in two schemes in which he asked for and received bribes from sports marketing companies relating to the award of marketing rights for World Cup qualifiers in Central America and for agreeing to the Costa Rican national team playing in friendlies in the region.