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