Argentine judge Marcelo Martínez de Giorgi has approved the arrest of three Argentine business leaders named in a corruption scandal engulfing world football and facing US extradition requests, though he acknowledged he did not know if they were in the country. The businessmen were considered fugitives from justice on Thursday after Interpol was unable to locate them at their residences.
Their legal situation also worsened after Argentina's tax office AFIP filed a criminal complaint against Alejandro Burzaco, Hugo Jinkis and his son Mariano Jinkis for alleged tax evasion. The three were indicted by the US on Wednesday as being involved in a major corruption scheme involving FIFA and the illicit awarding of television rights for soccer tournaments.
The father and son are president and vice-president, respectively, of the telecommunications marketing company Full Play Group SA, a large sports-oriented multinational based in Argentina.
The details of the accusations, revealed on Wednesday by the multi-discipline team of US prosecutors and investigators based in New York, point to the payment of up to US$150 million in bribes and kickbacks by corporate chiefs to FIFA officials over a 24-year period.
The indictment states that Burzaco and the Jinkis’ led their companies to form a new entity known as Datisa, which entered into a US$317.5 million contract with CONMEBOL (South American football association) to obtain exclusive worldwide rights to the 2015, 2019 and 2023 Copa America tournaments, according to the indictment.
Datisa later entered into a US$35 million contract with the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football, (CONCACAF) to acquire rights for another tournament, the Copa America Centenario.
However Torneos on Wednesday denied any involvement in corrupt schemes to win contracts and said it was willing to work with judicial authorities.
Amid speculation that Burzaco was out of the country when news of the indictment broke, and given that Argentine courts are more lenient than their US counterparts and that extradition can be waived if there is local prosecution, Judge Claudio Bonadío has requested checks on immigration records to determine if Burzaco re-entered the country.
The CEO of Torneos (formerly known as TyC), Alejandro Burzaco is the brother of Eugenio Burzaco, the former Metropolitan Police head who was appointed by City Mayor Mauricio Macri.
The arrest warrants, green-lighted by Judge Marcelo Martínez de Giorgi on Thursday before he had the file re-assigned to another judge, were issued after prosecutor Federico Delgado filed three writs in which he argued that the accused should not be exempt from arrest.
Delgado wrote in identical briefs that in light of the events described by the US such as “the multiple criminal maneuvers, the millions at stake, the hiatus that apparently took place between the planning of the events and its implementation in various countries” there were reasons to deny the request by the defendant’s defense lawyers to exempt them from arrest. The prosecutor added that in light of the economic resources available to the accused there were reasons to believe that they would pose a flight risk. Martínez de Giorgi agreed with the reasoning, thus facilitating the filing of the arrest warrants.
Should Burzaco and the Jinkis be arrested, they may still be released on bail pending trial or extradition to the United States.
According to the applicable extradition protocols, if and when they are arrested the defendants will be asked if they accept extradition to the US for charges of fraud and money-laundering. Should they not agree, an extradition process will begin.