PSG president Nasser al-Khelaifi charged in FIFA bribery case over World Cup TV rights

Yahoo Sports
Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi is in some hot water. (REUTERS/Charles Platiau)
Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi is in some hot water. (REUTERS/Charles Platiau)

Swiss prosecutors charged Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser al-Khelaifi, a prominent soccer figure with roles in media and governing boards, in connection with a bribery investigation involving FIFA and World Cup broadcasting rights, the New York Times reported Thursday. Two other men have also been charged including Jérôme Valcke, a former FIFA executive.

In addition to running PSG, al-Khelaifi runs BeIN, a Qatar-based broadcaster, and is a board member for UEFA and the European Clubs Association. The charges stem from an investigation that began two years ago surrounding BeIN being awarded the lucrative television broadcasting rights to the 2026 and 2030 men’s World Cup tournaments.

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Al-Khelaifi charged with incitement

Swiss prosecutors have charged al-Khelaifi with inciting Valcke, a former FIFA secretary general, “to commit aggravated criminal mismanagement,” per reports. Valcke is also charged with accepting bribes, “several counts of aggravated criminal mismanagement and falsification of documents,” per the Associated Press.

Al-Khelaifi, who was appointed to the UEFA executive committee last year, was charged for allegedly purchasing and providing Valcke rent-free use of a luxury villa on the Italian island of Sardinia. Valcke was the second-in-command at FIFA at the time and had influence over awarding the World Cup broadcasting rights before he was removed in 2015 and issued a 10-year ban from global soccer. The court said the cost of occupying the villa for 18 months was $1.9 million.

Via the Associated Press:

“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,” Al-Khelaifi said in a statement Thursday.

A third unidentified man is charged with bribery for payments to Valcke and incitement to commit aggravated criminal mismanagement. The New York Times reports the man is Konstantinos Nteris, the chief executive of TAF Sports. The Greek company secured TV rights in Greece and Italy for FIFA tournaments. Per the Times, the third man has not been named due to Switzerland’s criminal code. He allegedly made three payments totaling $1.3 million to Valcke, per the Times.

Al-Khelaifi avoids bribery charge

Al-Khelaifi avoided a bribery charge due to an out-of-court “amicable agreement” with FIFA, according to the indictment. BeIN secured rights to the 2026 and 2030 World Cup tournaments around the same time Valcke was offered the villa.

Per Swiss law, a bribery complaint is only investigated if there is a complaint open on it. Since FIFA, which has not commented, pulled its complaint, “a procedural requirement for the prosecution of these offenses was no longer met,” the attorney general’s office told the New York Times.

In a statement via the New York Times, 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.”

“The charges have not — and have never had — any basis whatsoever, either in fact or law,” he added.

Al-Khelaifi has now asked authorities to open a criminal inquiry into the “conduct of the investigation,” citing “constant leaks,” per the Times.

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