Al-Khelaïfi acquitted again, Valcke guilty in new FIFA trial

Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser al-Khelaïfi was acquitted in Switzerland on Friday for the second time in a new trial for wrongdoing linked to former FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke.

Al-Khelaïfi was again cleared of a charge of incitement to aggravated criminal mismanagement for allowing Valcke to use a vacation home in Sardinia without rent. The house was purchased in 2013 by a Qatari company.

Valcke, who served as FIFA’s top administrator for eight years until his dismissal in 2015, was found guilty of separate charges not involving Al-Khelaïfi. They relate to the taking of bribes in negotiations for World Cup broadcasting rights in Italy and Greece.

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The Swiss Federal Criminal Court found Valcke guilty of repeated forgery and passive bribery. He received a longer suspended sentence – 11 months instead of three – than he received after the initial trial in September 2020.

A third defendant, Greek marketing director Dinos Deris, was found guilty of active bribery and given a suspended 10-month prison sentence after being acquitted for the first time in 2020. Both men’s sentences were suspended for probationary periods two years.

The retrial took place in March at the Swiss Federal Criminal Court after prosecutors appealed the initial verdicts.

Al-Khelaïfi’s second acquittal was hailed by his legal team as a “total vindication”.

“The years of baseless allegations, fictitious accusations and constant smears have been proven completely and utterly unfounded – twice,” attorney Marc Bonnant said in a statement.

During a five-year investigation, Al-Khelaïfi, the head of Qatari broadcaster beIN Media Group and a member of the government of the World Cup host country, has grown in power and status in European football.

Despite being a suspect in Swiss criminal proceedings, Al-Khelaïfi was elected in 2019 to join UEFA’s executive committee and now leads the influential European Club Association after PSG refused to join the failed project. of the Super League last year.

The accusation against Al-Khelaïfi focused on beIN’s renewal of World Cup rights in the Middle East and North Africa with FIFA around the time the Italian villa was purchased.

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Al-Khelaïfi’s lawyers argued that beIN’s deal for the 2026 and 2030 World Cups, declared in court to be worth a total of $480 million, was good for FIFA.

While often using the holiday home from 2013 to 2015, Valcke also oversaw FIFA-led talks to move the 2022 World Cup in Qatar from June and July to the cooler months of November and December. FIFA was also waiting and then dealing with the fallout from its ethics committee’s investigation into the 2018-22 World Cup bid contests.

The charges against Valcke relate to the deposit of three payments totaling 1.25 million euros ($1.45 million) into his personal company accounts as loans.

Valcke’s convictions were announced the same week that former FIFA president Sepp Blatter was on trial at the same Bellinzona courthouse in a separate case. Blatter and former UEFA President Michel Platini have been charged with fraud, forgery and financial misconduct.

Verdicts are due July 8 in the case, which involves a Blatter-approved FIFA payment of 2 million Swiss francs ($2 million) to Platini in 2011.

Valcke remains a suspect in separate Swiss criminal proceedings involving Blatter and former FIFA chief financial officer Markus Kattner. This case involves a $1 million payment from FIFA to the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation in 2010.

Al-Khelaïfi is also under investigation by Paris financial prosecutors for payments related to Qatar’s bid to host the World Athletics Championships, which took place in Doha in 2019.

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