World Cup bribery case opened against PSG chief, ex-FIFA of­fi­cial Val­cke

The Korea Times - - SPORTS - GENEVA (AP)

— 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 FIFA 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” was an­nounced by the of­fice of Switzer­land’s at­tor­ney gen­eral on Thurs­day.

The case in­volves the award of broad­cast rights for the next four World Cups from 2018 through 2030. The pro­ceed­ing against Al-Khe­laifi 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 co­op­er­a­tion 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.

Val­cke did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to an email re­quest for com­ment. BeIN said in a state­ment that its “em­ploy­ees on site co­op­er­ated with the au­thor­i­ties un­til the end of the search.”

It said the group “re­futes all ac­cu­sa­tions” made by the Swiss in­ves­ti­ga­tors and that “the com­pany will fully co­op­er­ate with the au­thor­i­ties and is con­fi­dent as to the fu­ture de­vel­op­ments of this in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

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.

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