September 15 – The so-called “third man” in the corruption trial of FIFA’s disgraced former secretary general Jerome Valcke (pictured) and Paris Saint-Germain chief Nasser Al-Khelaifi failed to show up when the high-profile case began this week in the Swiss city of Bellinzona.
Greek businessman Dinos Deris (also known as Konstantinos Nteris), did not attend the opening of proceedings citing medical reasons. His lawyer requested a postponement which was refused by presiding judge Stephan Zenger.
According to the prosecution, part of the case relates to a meeting in October, 2013 when Al-Khelaifi, boss of BeIn Media, allegedly promised to buy a villa in Sardinia for €5 million, granting its exclusive use later on and rent-free to Valcke, in return for broadcasting rights. Both deny any wrongdoing.
Al-Khelaifi, one of the most influential figures in world football who sits on the executive committee of UEFA, faces the charge of “inciting Valcke to commit aggravated criminal mismanagement”, for which he could face five years in prison.
In return, the prosecution claims, Valcke committed to “do what was in his power” to ensure beIN would become the regional broadcaster for two World Cups, which is exactly what happened when FIFA renewed beIN’s World Cup broadcast rights in the Middle East and north Africa for the 2026 and 2030 tournaments without rival bids.
“The major part of this file does not concern our client,” Al-Khelaifi’s lawyers told AFP while dismissing the charges against him as “clearly artificial”.
In a web of alleged criminality, Valcke, Sepp Blatter’s one-time right-hand man and still serving a 10-year FIFA ban for ethics violations, stands accused of the far more serious charge of exploiting his position at FIFA between 2013 and 2015.
The prosecution claim he influenced the awarding of media rights for Italy and Greece for various World Cup and other tournaments that were scheduled between 2018 and 2030 “in order to favour media partners that he preferred” – in exchange for payments from Deris.
Reports claim Valcke stood to receive €1.25 million from the deal.
The prosecution’s case has been weakened by shattered reputation of the Swiss judiciary, highlighted by the resignation of Swiss attorney general Michael Lauber over those infamous undocumented meetings in 2016 and 2017 with current FIFA boss Gianni Infantino, both of whom are under criminal investigation.
Three federal judges are expected to deliver their verdict by the end of October. If they find the defendants guilty, it would be first such verdict in Switzerland during the entire corruption saga of the last few years involving senior footballing executives.
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