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Li Tong, Nike Executive, Accused Of $30,000 Bribe To Chinese Soccer Official

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The Nike swoosh displayed in Shanghai. The sporting goods maker was tied to the corruption in Chinese soccer during a trial on Tuesday.
The Nike swoosh displayed in Shanghai. The sporting goods maker was tied to the corruption in Chinese soccer during a trial on Tuesday.

Just as Walmart faces accusations of bribery in Mexico, another mega-corporation is fielding its own corruption charges on foreign soil.

Li Tong, Nike China's marketing director, allegedly gave a $30,000 bribe to Chinese Football Association head Xie Yalong to secure a Nike sponsorship deal for the Chinese Super League, according to documents revealed Tuesday in a trial in northeastern China and published in an Oregon paper.

Li Tong, a former Chinese Olympian, was arrested in September 2010 as part of a wider investigation on match-fixing and bribery, the Oregonian reported, citing a Xinhua General News article. But it was Xie Yalong who was on trial Tuesday, allegedly because he accepted about $273,000 in bribes from various interests.

Nike said in a statement Tuesday that it had not been contacted by Chinese authorities about the Li Tong allegation, and that it strongly opposed "any form of manipulation or bribery." It was similar to the statement that the sportswear giant made when Li Tong was arrested nearly two years ago, according to an Australian website.

Li Tong, sometimes known as Tony Li stateside, was held in the northeast province of Liaoning and released after helping an investigation into Chinese soccer corruption, the Australian site said, quoting a Chinese sports publication.

Walmart is accused of handing out $29 million in bribes to Mexican officials for permits, and then covering it up.

While the alleged bribes associated with the Chinese soccer scandal are smaller, their effect may have had a huge impact on sports licensing in China. A site called Unprofessionalfoul.com reported back in 2010 that Nike's contract with the Chinese Super League was worth $15 million for 2010 and could expand to 10 years for $200 million. It was a sweetheart of a deal compared to the $500 million that rival Adidas paid to the Chinese national team, raising the possibility that Li Tong engaged in bribery to strike such a bargain, the site said.

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