Qatari chairman of Paris Saint-Germain accused of bribery
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.