Swiss tar­get PSG boss, ex-FIFA exec in World Cup rights probe

The Borneo Post (Sabah) - - SPORT -

GENEVA: Swiss pros­e­cu­tors have opened a crim­i­nal cor­rup­tion probe tar­get­ing the head of Paris Saint-Ger­main foot­ball club Nasser Al-Khe­laifi and dis­graced for­mer FIFA ex­ec­u­tive Jerome Val­cke over the sale of me­dia rights for up­com­ing World Cups.

The Swiss at­tor­ney gen­eral's of­fice (OAG) said the probe opened in March and cen­tres on al­le­ga­tions in­clud­ing bribery, fraud, crim­i­nal mis­man­age­ment and forgery of a doc­u­ment.

Pros­e­cu­tors in­di­cated that AlKhe­laifi, a pow­er­ful Qatari sports ex­ec­u­tive who is also head of beIN me­dia, was un­der sus­pi­cion only for ac­tions taken as the head of the sports me­dia group, which op­er­ates on five con­ti­nents.

The Qatar broad­caster is­sued a state­ment deny­ing any wrong­do­ing while con­firm­ing French au­thor­i­ties had raided the com­pany's Paris of­fices fol­low­ing a Swiss re­quest.

"beIN Me­dia Group re­futes all ac­cu­sa­tions made by OAG. The com­pany will fully co­op­er­ate with the au­thor­i­ties and is con­fi­dent as to the fu­ture de­vel­op­ments of this investigation," it said in a state­ment.

PSG, which grabbed head­lines in Au­gust for its record sign­ing of Brazil­ian su­per­star Ney­mar, is not im­pli­cated in the investigation.

Val­cke, who was Sepp Blat­ter's right-hand man at FIFA, de­nied the al­le­ga­tions in an in­ter­view with French sports news­pa­per L'Equipe on Fri­day.

"They say there have been pay­ments from Nasser to me in re­turn for the sale of rights at a pref­er­en­tial rate. But I've re­ceived noth­ing from Nasser", he told the paper.

"There has never been an ex­change be­tween Nasser and me. Never."

Val­cke left the Swiss at­tor­ney gen­eral's of­fice on Thurs­day evening af­ter be­ing in­ter­viewed as a sus­pect and "dis­putes all the al­le­ga­tions", his lawyer told AFP.

"He came out free, there is no co­er­cive mea­sure against him nor any bail pay­ment," Stephane Cec­ca­ldi said.

The OAG said there was a third sus­pect in the case but iden­ti­fied him only as "a busi­ness­man in the sports rights sec­tor".

Pros­e­cu­tors said they had ev­i­dence in­di­cat­ing that Val­cke "ac­cepted un­due ad­van­tages" from the busi­ness­man "in con­nec­tion with the award of me­dia rights for cer­tain coun­tries at the FIFA World Cups in 2018, 2022, 2026 and 2030".

The Swiss at­tor­ney gen­eral's of­fice also al­leged that Val­cke had il­le­gal deal­ings with "Nasser AlKhe­laifi in con­nec­tion with the award of me­dia rights for cer­tain coun­tries at the FIFA World Cups in 2026 and 2030".

The 2018 and 2022 World Cups will be played in Rus­sia and Qatar re­spec­tively, while the 2026 and 2030 tour­na­ments have not yet been awarded.

Val­cke, a French na­tional who also holds South African ci­ti­zen­ship, was sacked from his post as FIFA's sec­re­tary gen­eral last year amid the cor­rup­tion scan­dal that brought world foot­ball's gov­ern­ing body to its knees.

He be­came the sub­ject of a sep­a­rate Swiss cor­rup­tion probe in March 2016 over crim­i­nal mis­man­age­ment dur­ing his FIFA ten­ure.

The pre­vi­ously dis­closed al­le­ga­tions trig­gered his dis­missal from FIFA and a 10-year ban from foot­ball.

Val­cke was in Switzer­land this week ar­gu­ing an ap­peal at the Court of Ar­bi­tra­tion for Sport in Lau­sanne, where he was try­ing to over­turn the ban.

While Val­cke was be­ing ques­tioned, au­thor­i­ties in France, Greece, Italy and Spain searched prop­er­ties as part of the probe, Swiss pros­e­cu­tors said, adding that no sus­pect in the case was cur­rently in cus­tody.

Un­like Val­cke, whose ca­reer in world foot­ball is gen­er­ally seen as fin­ished, Al-Khe­laifi's promi­nence in the sport has soared in re­cent months, es­pe­cially fol­low­ing the Ney­mar sign­ing.

PSG paid Barcelona a record 222 mil­lion eu­ros ($264 mil­lion) for Ney­mar and Al-Khe­laifi vowed that the ac­qui­si­tion would bring the Cham­pi­ons League ti­tle to the Paris side within two years.

PSG was bought by Qatar Sports In­vest­ments in 2011.

The new probe is the lat­est in a com­plex web of scan­dals that has rocked world foot­ball over the last two and a half years.

Dozens of cor­rup­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tions are on­go­ing in Switzer­land, the United States and else­where.

Many re­late to the sale of broad­cast and mar­ket­ing rights, with FIFA in­sid­ers ac­cused of tak­ing kick­backs in ex­change for sweet­heart deals with broad­cast­ers and pro­mot­ers.

FIFA pres­i­dent Gianni In­fantino, who took over from the dis­graced Blat­ter last year, has vowed to clean up the game. - AFP

AFP photo

This com­bi­na­tion of file images cre­ated on Oc­to­ber 13, 2017, shows (L) French for­mer FIFA Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Jerome Val­cke as he ar­rives at the Court of Ar­bi­tra­tion for Sport prior to his ap­peal over his 10 year ban from foot­ball on Oc­to­ber 11, 2017 in Lau­sanne and (R) Paris Saint-Ger­main's Qatari pres­i­dent Nasser Al-Khe­laïfi as he ar­rives for the French L1 foot­ball match be­tween Paris Saint-Ger­main and Nancy at the Parc des Princes sta­dium in Paris on March 4, 2017.—

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