A federal judge vacated convictions of former Fox executive Hernán López and an Argentinian marketing company in a FIFA bribery case that accused them of bribing soccer officials to secure broadcasting rights for big tournaments, including the World Cup.
U.S. District Judge Pamela K. Chen granted a motion for the acquittal on Friday night, as The Associated Press reports, citing a May decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in a case connected to Joseph Percoco, an aide to former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, where the wire fraud conspiracy conviction was reversed after the court found the jury instructions too vague.
“The Supreme Court’s latest wire fraud decisions — especially Percoco — and the absence of precedent applying honest services wire fraud to foreign commercial bribery, requires this court to find that (the statute) does not criminalize the conduct alleged in this case and that therefore the evidence at trial was insufficient to sustain defendants’ convictions under that statute,” Chen wrote.
She added: “Defendants’ convictions for money laundering, predicated on their honest services wire fraud convictions, also cannot be sustained. The court therefore grants defendants’ motions to acquit on all counts of conviction.”
In March, a Brooklyn federal jury found López, the former CEO of Fox International Channels, guilty for his role in a scheme to pay millions of dollars to the presidents of soccer federations to obtain broadcasting rights to FIFA World Cup and Copa Libertadores, the biggest annual tournament in the southern hemisphere. He had been convicted on one count of money laundering conspiracy and one count of wire fraud conspiracy, and was facing up to 40 years in prison. Full Play Group, the Argentinian marketing company also named as a defendant, was convicted on six fraud and money laundering counts.
“Our client is grateful for the court’s well-reasoned decision,” Carlos F. Ortiz, a lawyer for Full Play, told AP in an email. “It has been a long journey and we greatly appreciate the court’s complete vindication.”
David Sarratt, a lawyer for Lopez, told AP in an email: “We are obviously pleased with Judge Chen’s thorough and correct decision. We have never stopped believing in our client’s innocence.”
The case stemmed from a widespread probe in 2015 that accused sports-marketing executives in international soccer and its governing body, FIFA, of paying more than $150 million in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for media deals associated with major soccer matches.