Wednesday, April 21, 2021

PSG president Nasser al-Khelaifi charged in Fifa bribery probe


The Paris Saint-Germain president, Nasser al-Khelaifi, was charged on Thursday by Swiss federal prosecutors in connection with a wider bribery investigation linked to World Cup television rights.

The office of Switzerland’s attorney general filed an indictment charging Khelaifi with inciting former Fifa secretary general Jérôme Valcke to commit aggravated criminal mismanagement. The Qatari football and television executive, however, no longer faces an accusation of bribery.

Following a three-year investigation, Fifa reached an amicable agreement with Khelaifi last month, prosecutors said, to drop its criminal complaint relating to the awarding of 2026 and 2030 World Cup rights to Qatari broadcaster BeIN Sports. Khelaifi is the head of Doha-based BeIN Sports and also a member of the Uefa executive committee.

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“I have been cleared of all suspicions of bribery and the case has been dismissed definitively and conclusively,” said Khelaifi in a statement. “While a secondary technical charge remains outstanding, I have every expectation that this will be proven completely groundless.

“While I have cooperated with all authorities during the legal process, the three year investigation has been characterised by constant leaks, misinformation and a seemingly relentless agenda to smear my reputation in the media – completely irrespective of the facts and the notion of due process. For that reason, I have requested the relevant Swiss authorities to open a criminal enquiry into the conduct of the investigation.”

Khelaifi was indicted for his alleged part in providing Valcke, who had influence over the awarding of World Cup rights until being removed from office in 2015, with use of a luxury villa in Sardinia without paying rent valued at up to €1.8m. Valcke was charged with accepting bribes, several counts of aggravated criminal mismanagement and falsification of documents.

For the first time in the five-year investigation of Fifa business, Swiss prosecutors revealed that they believe Valcke received kickbacks totaling €1.25m to steer World Cup rights toward favoured broadcasters in Italy and Greece.

A third person who was not identified was charged with bribery over those payments and also for inciting Valcke to commit aggravated criminal mismanagement.

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Khelaifi was appointed to the Uefa executive committee, representing European clubs, one year ago despite being implicated in the bribery case. He is also an influential board member of the European Club Association, which is seeking to drive reforms in the Champions League to favour elite clubs such as French champion PSG.

He denied wrongdoing after being questioned in 2017 and 2019 in connection with criminal proceedings opened three years ago.

Khelaifi has also been implicated in a separate corruption investigation by French prosecutors that is linked to Qatar seeking hosting rights for the track and field world championships. Doha hosted the 2019 edition.


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