An­other World Cup bribery in­ves­ti­ga­tion is opened

Crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ings be­gin against PSG pres­i­dent Al-Khe­laifi, ex-FIFA chief Val­cke over broad­cast rights

Waterloo Region Record - - SPORTS - Gra­ham Dunbar

GENEVA — The Qatari pres­i­dent of one of Europe’s most glam­orous soc­cer clubs, Paris Saint-Ger­main, is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion by Swiss pros­e­cu­tors for sus­pected bribery of a top Fédéra­tion In­ter­na­tionale de Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion ex­ec­u­tive to get World Cup broad­cast­ing rights.

Crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ings against Nasser Al-Khe­laifi, PSG pres­i­dent and CEO of Qatar-owned BeIN Me­dia Group, for­mer FIFA sec­re­tary gen­eral Jerome Val­cke and an un­named “busi­ness­man in the sports rights sec­tor” were an­nounced by the of­fice of Switzer­land’s at­tor­ney gen­eral Thurs­day.

The case in­volves the award of broad­cast rights for the next four World Cups from 2018 through ’30.

The pro­ceed­ing against AlKhe­laifi is one of the first di­rect links to Qatar in sweep­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions by fed­eral law en­force­ment au­thor­i­ties in Switzer­land, the United States, and France of FIFA, in­ter­na­tional soc­cer, and the 2018-2022 World Cup bid­ding con­tests.

The Paris of­fices of BeIN Sports were searched by two mag­is­trates from the French fi­nan­cial pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice, the fed­eral agency said. They were as­sisted by in­ves­ti­ga­tors from an anti-cor­rup­tion unit.

Prop­er­ties were also searched in Greece, Italy, and Spain while Val­cke was ques­tioned in Switzer­land, the Swiss fed­eral pros­e­cu­tion of­fice said. It cited co-op­er­a­tion from a Euro­pean Union crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion agency.

“Mul­ti­ple premises were searched, as­sets were seized and in­ter­views were con­ducted as a re­sult of this joint op­er­a­tion,” the EU body known as Euro­just said in a state­ment. PSG de­clined to com­ment. No sus­pect was de­tained on Thurs­day, said Swiss pros­e­cu­tors whose work in­ves­ti­gat­ing FIFA and sus­pected money laun­der­ing linked to World Cup host­ing bids be­gan in Novem­ber 2014.

Then, FIFA gave the Swiss fed­eral of­fice a re­port and ev­i­dence from its then-ethics pros­e­cu­tor — for­mer U.S. At­tor­ney Michael Gar­cia — into the dual World Cup bid­ding con­test won by Rus­sia and Qatar.

Al-Khe­laifi is al­leged to have of­fered “un­due ad­van­tages” to Val­cke — FIFA’s CEO-like sec­re­tary gen­eral from 2007 un­til his fir­ing in Jan­uary ’16 — for the award of me­dia rights in “cer­tain coun­tries” for the ’26 and ’30 World Cup. Al-Khe­laifi and Val­cke pre­vi­ously ne­go­ti­ated a deal for the ’18 and ’22 rights weeks af­ter Qatar won the ’22 host­ing vote. In Jan­uary ’11, FIFA an­nounced that al Jazeera Sports — which later be­came BeIN — se­cured the rights for 23 ter­ri­to­ries across the Mid­dle East and North Africa, in­clud­ing Saudi Ara­bia.

FIFA has never an­nounced if BeIN also se­cured any ’26 and ’30 World Cup rights.

Swiss pros­e­cu­tors also al­lege Val­cke re­ceived “un­due ad­van­tages” from a busi­ness­man who was not iden­ti­fied to award cer­tain me­dia rights for four World Cups from ’18 through ’30.

The crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ing was opened on March 20, but an­nounced only on Thurs­day, the Swiss fed­eral of­fice said.

Al-Khe­laifi’s pro­file has risen in re­cent weeks as PSG pur­sued and sealed a world record trans­fer of Brazil star Ney­mar from Barcelona for €222 mil­lion ($262 mil­lion US).

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