March 8 – More than a year after launching an appeal to try and win their case against former FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke and football broadcasting boss Nasser Al-Khelaifi, Swiss prosecutors finally saw the trial get under way Monday, based around bribery charges relating to World Cup media rights.
Both Valcke and Al-Khelaifi, chairman of Qatar-based media group beIN Sports and boss of Paris St Germain, have denied any wrongdoing though Valcke of course is still banned from all football-related activity until mid-2032 for violating FIFA’s ethics code.
Al-Khelaifi was originally found not guilty in October 2020 following a high-profile 10-day trial that gripped world football politics during which he appeared alongside Valcke
At the same trial, Valcke was acquitted of accepting bribes and criminal mismanagement while he served under Sepp Blatter from 2007-15 but was found guilty of a lesser separate charge of forging documents linked to World Cup broadcasting deals in Italy and Greece.
Valcke was given a 120-day suspended sentence and ordered to pay FIFA €1.75 million in restitution.
That original trial before the Federal Court of Bellinzona was a huge setback for the prosecution who had demanded suspended jail terms for both men. The prosecution had alleged that at a meeting in October 2013, Al-Khelaifi promised to buy a villa in Sardinia for €5 million, granting its exclusive use to Valcke in exchange for support in its bid for the TV rights in North Africa and the Middle East for the 2026 and 2030 World Cups.
From day one, Al-Khelaifi has vehemently denied the charges that the villa was in any way linked to BeIn’s $480 million deal with FIFA for the 2026 and 2030 World Cups, a record amount for the Middle East and North Africa.
Four days have been set aside for the Swiss prosecution’s appeal hearing, the outcome of which is eagerly anticipated. Al-Khelaifi is one of European football’s most influential and powerful figures. As well as running BEin and PSG, he is also head of the European Club Association and a member of Uefa’s executive committee.
In court judges reportedly questioned 48-year-old Al-Khelaifi about the acquisition of the villa Valcke allegedly used without paying rent in return for securing beIN media group media rights for the 2026 and 2030 World Cups.
He was apparently asked whether he had struck a “corrupt arrangement” with Valcke, only to reply: “That is totally wrong. It’s a false accusation.”
Valcke, for his part, said he had asked Al-Khelaifi to help him as a friend back in 2013 because he was facing financial difficulties.
“I’m not proud of it, I would have had fewer problems if I’d been reasonable,” Valcke reportedly told the court. “I turned to Nasser because I knew him … That was Jerome talking to Nasser and not the FIFA secretary general to the president of beIN Sports.”
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