By Andrew Warshaw
June 24 – Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser al-Khelaifi, one of the most powerful figures in global football, was acquitted on appeal for a second time today by a Swiss federal court on charges of corruption in the long-running saga over the attribution of World Cup TV rights.
FIFA’s former secretary general Jerome Valcke was also acquitted of the same charges, but received an 11-month suspended sentence for bribery and forgery of documents in a separate case relating to taking kickbacks in negotiations for World Cup broadcast rights in Italy and Greece – a case not associated with Al-Khelaifi.
Valcke, who was FIFA secretary general and Sepp Blatter’s right-hand man from 2007 to 2015, was also fined CHF20,000, also suspended..
The appeals trial of Al-Khelaifi and Valcke, both of whom had denied all the charges, was held in March after taking 18 months to come to court.
Al-Khelaifi was acquitted of inciting Valcke, once FIFA’s go-to powerbroker, to commit criminal mismanagement. Switzerland’s public prosecutor had called for hefty prison sentences for both but not for the first time their case has been found wanting.
Valcke and Al-Khelaifi were 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 was alleged that Al-Khelaifi promised to buy a luxury villa in Sardinia for €5 million, granting its exclusive use to Valcke – who is serving a 10-year ban from football that was handed down by the FIFA Ethics Committee in 2018 – in exchange for FIFA favouring beIN’s rights bid.
Al-Khelaifi’s acquittal was hailed by his legal team as “total vindication”. It was the second time he had been cleared of wrongdoing in the Swiss federal criminal court after prosecutors appealed against the original verdicts.
“The years of baseless allegations, fictitious charges and constant smears have been proven to be completely and wholly unsubstantiated – twice,” lawyer Marc Bonnant said in a statement.
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