Al-Khelaifi lawyers claim slander and ask how record $450m World Cup TV deal needs a bribe

By Andrew Warshaw

March 10 – Lawyers for Nasser Al-Khelaifi (pictured), the Qatari head of broadcaster beIN Sport and boss of Paris St Germain, have demanded a full acquittal of their client over bribery allegations relating to the sale of media rights for the 2026 and 2030 World Cup.

Switzerland’s public prosecutor has called for hefty prison sentences for Al-Khelaifi and FIFA’s former number two Jerome Valcke in a high-profile appeals hearing that has taken 18 months to come to court.

Swiss authorities, having already failed once to win their case and send the defendants to jail, are appealing verdicts handed down to both men following a high-profile, 10-day trial in late 2020 which acquitted Al-Khelaifi and handed Valcke a suspended sentence

Prosecutors earlier this week asked the federal criminal court in Bellinzona to jail Al-Khelaifi for 28 months.

But his defence team have ridiculed the request, arguing it is totally unjustified and have called for a complete and absolute acquittal of all charges – exactly as occurred at the original trial back in October 2020.

Valcke and Al-Khelaifi are accused of a secret “corrupt agreement” over beIN’s acquisition of media rights in North Africa and the Middle East for the 2026 and 2030 World Cups. It is alleged that Al-Khelaifi promised to buy a luxury villa in Sardinia for €5 million, granting its exclusive use to Valcke in exchange for FIFA favouring beIN’s rights bid.

The two men insist the villa deal was a “private” arrangement, totally unrelated to the media rights contract concluded by beIN with FIFA in April 2014.

In court, Al-Khelaifi’s team once again stressed that the $480 million media rights agreement, a record amount for the Middle East and North Africa, was in fact a brilliant deal for FIFA, the total opposite to being under-valued.

The court was told that since the original acquittal, nothing in law or fact has changed.

Valcke, the court was told, “did not open the door of FIFA to beIN” because beIN “was already an important partner,” according to court transcripts seen by InsideWorldFootball.

BeIN had no interest in currying favour with Valcke since with or without him, they were going to get the contract anyway.

“There was no one else in the market. BeIN did not need JV (Jerome Valcke) to negotiate and discuss a contract.”

“The BeIN/FIFA contract for the 2026/2030 media rights is not tainted by a pact of corruption. There is no bribe.”

Al-Khaleifi’s lawyers have demanded the prosecution pay all costs for deliberately trying to slander the name of their client, one of the most powerful officials in European football who is also a member of the UEFA executive committee in his role as head of the European Clubs Association.

The case is expected to conclude on Friday.

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