Fury and intrigue as Swiss charge Valcke and Al-Khelaifi with bribery over World Cup rights

By Paul Nicholson

February 20 – The Swiss Attorney General has issued an indictment against the former FIFA secretary general Jerôme Valcke, the chairman of the BeIN Media Group, Nasser Al-Khelaifi (who is also president of PSG and a UEFA executive committee member), and an unnamed businessman.

The indictment covers the award of media rights to various World Cup and FIFA Confederations Cup tournaments to BeIN and alleged bribes paid to Valcke along with the provision of a villa in Sardinia.

Al-Khelaifi is charged with inciting Valcke to commit a crime by giving him use of the villa. They are charges that Al-Khelaifi (pictured) vehemently denies, pointing out that previous “charges of bribery in connection with the 2026 and 2030 World Cups have been dropped.”

The identity of the third man accused is understood to be Greek sports marketing executive Konstantinos Nteris (better known as Dinos Deris), the chief executive of TAF Sports. He’s accused of bribing Valcke €1.2 million in exchange for World Cup rights to Italy and Greece. He has been unavailable for comment.

Regarding the new charges, Al-Khelaifi said in a statement: “I have every expectation that this will be proven completely groundless and without any substance whatsoever, in the same way as the primary case.”

Valcke is charged with “criminal mismanagement” for and for not reporting the “advantages” (use of Villa Bianca in Sardinia) he received to FIFA,  and in the process “unlawfully enriching himself”.

A statement from the Swiss office of the attorney general said: “In this context, Al-Khelaifi and the third accused are charged with corresponding incitement.”

Swiss investigations allege Valcke was refunded a down payment of €500,000 on the purchase of the villa, “after Al-Khelaifi had purchased the villa through a company instead of Valcke.” Valcke was then given exclusive use of the villa for 18 months rent free (an estimated value by the Swiss of €900,000 to €1.8 million) which ended when he was suspended by FIFA.

Al-Khelaifi maintains he never owned Villa Bianca. There is also some doubt over whether Valcke actually received the villa free of charge, with sources saying that he paid a six figure sum in rent.

From the unnamed third party businessman, Valcke received three payments totalling about €1.25 million to his company Sportunited LLC. The allegation is that these payments relate directly to World Cup rights though the businessman is not known to have any connection with the sports rights business. Valcke is separately charged with “untruthfully” declaring the payments as loans in Sportunited’s accounts.

The Swiss statement says: “The charges of paying and accepting bribes are based on the allegation that between 2013 and 2015 Valcke exploited his position as Secretary General of FIFA to influence the award of media rights for Italy and Greece for various World Cup and FIFA Confederations Cup tournaments in the period between 2018 and 2030 in order to favour media partners that he preferred. In return, the third accused promised and indeed made the aforementioned three payments to Valcke totalling €1.25 million.”

In his own statement Al-Khelaifi said: “After an exhaustive three-year investigation, where I have fully and openly cooperated with the Public Prosecutor in Switzerland, I am pleased that all charges of bribery in connection with the 2026 and 2030 World Cups have been dropped.”

Indeed, as one beIN insider pointed out, it would have been the worst bribe of all time as the fees paid for the 2026 and 2030 World Cups were records for the region.

“As I have said vehemently and repeatedly for three years, the charges have not – and have never had – any basis whatsoever, either in fact or law. It is now – finally – indisputable fact that the 2026 and 2030 agreements were negotiated at arms-lengths and without any improper influence in any form. After the most forensic public, private, lawful and unlawful scrutiny of all my dealings, I have been cleared of all suspicions of bribery and the case has been dismissed definitively and conclusively,” said Al-Khelaifi.

Switzerland’s federal prosecutor, Michael Lauber, has been a controversial figure and was only narrowly re-elected to office last September despite losing control of his landmark case against FIFA following a storm of unresolved allegations over his personal conduct and secret, undocumented and mis-remembered meetings with FIFA president Gianni Infantino.

Al-Khelaifi’s fury is so great that he has asked Swiss authorities to open a criminal enquiry into the conduct of the investigation.

“The  three year investigation has been characterised by constant leaks, misinformation and a seemingly relentless agenda to smear my reputation in the media – completely irrespective of the facts and the notion of due process,” he said, coupled with the threat that he will legally pursue media “that repeatedly published factually-unsupported and highly damaging articles, often based on illegally-sourced and – quite remarkably in some cases – faked and fabricated materials, to satisfy their narrative of my supposed guilt.”

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