Qatari chair­man of Paris Saint-Ger­main ac­cused of bribery

Arab News - - FRONT PAGE - GREG WIL­COX

LON­DON: The head of Qatari sports me­dia group beIN, Nasser Al-Khe­laifi, is fac­ing bribery charges over the award of World Cup tele­vi­sion rights.

Au­thor­i­ties in Switzer­land have opened a crim­i­nal probe tar­get­ing Al-Khe­laifi, who as chair­man of Paris Saint-Ger­main is one of foot­ball’s most pow­er­ful fig­ures, and FIFA’s for­mer sec­re­tary gen­eral Jerome Val­cke.

It is al­leged that the Qatari bribed Val­cke to award 2026 and 2030 World Cup rights to Qatar­i­owned beIN Me­dia Group.

The Of­fice of the At­tor­ney Gen­eral of Switzer­land said in a state­ment: “It is sus­pected that Jerome Val­cke ac­cepted un­due ad­van­tages from a busi­ness­man in the sports rights sec­tor in con­nec­tion with the award of me­dia rights for cer­tain coun­tries at the FIFA World Cups in 2018, 2022, 2026 and 2030, and from Nasser Al-Khe­laifi in con­nec­tion with the award of me­dia rights for cer­tain coun­tries at the FIFA World Cups in 2026 and 2030.

“As it an­nounced in March 2016, the OAG (Swiss At­tor­ney Gen­eral) is al­ready con­duct­ing a pro­ceed­ing against Jerome Val­cke, in par­tic­u­lar on sus­pi­cion of var­i­ous acts of crim­i­nal mis­man­age­ment. This pro­ceed­ing is still on­go­ing. The new pro­ceed­ing has been opened pri­mar­ily on the ba­sis of find­ings ob­tained by the OAG in the ear­lier pro­ceed­ing.”

The news comes as a huge blow to Al-Khe­laifi who as PSG boss this sum­mer suc­ceeded in achiev­ing ma­jor coup in land­ing Brazil­ian star Ney­mar from Barcelona in a world-record $263 mil­lion trans­fer. Thanks to Qatari money the French gi­ants have be­come one of the big­gest clubs in Europe.

But the Al-Khe­laifi probe also comes as an­other blow for Qatar’s rep­u­ta­tion, de­spite its “soft power” bids to boost its rep­u­ta­tion through pur­chas­ing sports teams and host­ing the 2022 World Cup.

Such aims to project its power have been un­der­mined by fre­quent ac­cu­sa­tions of wrong­do­ing.

It comes a week af­ter a re­port on the Qatar World Cup by a Lon­don­based con­sul­tancy was leaked to the BBC. The study con­cluded that there are many rea­sons — rang­ing from al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion, to the cur­rent re­gional po­lit­i­cal cri­sis, to the pos­si­ble knock-on ef­fects on in­fra­struc­ture projects — to pre­dict that the tour­na­ment will not take place in the coun­try, warn­ing construction com­pa­nies that it is a “high-risk” project to work on.

The crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ing against Al-Khe­laifi was opened on March 20, but only an­nounced on Thurs­day, the Swiss fed­eral of­fice said. The case stemmed from a wider in­ves­ti­ga­tion into FIFA’s busi­ness that saw crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ings opened against Val­cke in March 2016.

Val­cke, who is no stranger to con­tro­versy, was FIFA’s sec­re­tary­gen­eral un­der then-Pres­i­dent Sepp Blat­ter from 2007 un­til he was fired in Jan­uary 2016. He was in Switzer­land yes­ter­day to tes­tify at the Court of Ar­bi­tra­tion for Sport in his ap­peal hear­ing against a 10-year ban by FIFA for fi­nan­cial wrong­do­ing and abuse of ex­penses.

Nasser Al-Khe­laifi

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