Former FIFA official, al-Khelaifi back in Swiss court over corruption charges

AP , Monday 7 Mar 2022

Former FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke and Qatari soccer executive Nasser al-Khelaifi were back in a Swiss court Monday after federal prosecutors appealed against the verdicts in their September 2020 trial.

Former FIFA number two Jerome Valcke arrives on the opening day of an appeal before the Swiss Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona, southern Switzerland, on March 7, 2022. AFP

The Swiss Federal Criminal Court said Valcke, al-Khelaifi and a third defendant, marketing executive Dinos Deris, all were in court in Bellinzona for the start of the appeal case.

The court has scheduled four days for the appeal. Al-Khelaifi, the president of French soccer club Paris Saint-Germain and head of Qatari broadcaster beIN Media Group, is expected in Spain on Wednesday for his team's Champions League game against Real Madrid.

The allegations relate to World Cup television rights and to Valcke getting rent-free use of a vacation home in Sardinia bought in 2013 by a Qatari company set up for the purpose of the purchase with al-Khelaifi's help.

At the time, FIFA was renewing World Cup rights in the Middle East and North Africa for beIN Media Group. From 2013-15, Valcke also oversaw a FIFA consultation process to move the 2022 World Cup in Qatar from June and July to new dates in the cooler months of November and December.

Al-Khelaifi, who is also a member of the UEFA executive committee, was acquitted in October 2020 of a charge that he incited Valcke to commit aggravated criminal mismanagement at FIFA.

Since prosecutors filed their appeal more than one year ago, al-Khelaifi's influence on European soccer has grown. He now heads the European Club Association after he and PSG were key to helping UEFA resist the launch of the failed Super League project backed by Real Madrid last April.

Valcke was cleared of the criminal mismanagement charge. The three Swiss judges ruled the beIN deal for the 2026 and 2030 tournaments, said to total $480 million, was good for FIFA and its interests had not been damaged.

Valcke was found guilty in a separate matter involving Deris but not al-Khelaifi.

He got a 120-day suspended sentence for forging documents linked to getting kickbacks totaling 1.25 million euros ($1.36 million) to his personal company from World Cup broadcasting deals in Italy and Greece.

Valcke was acquitted of bribery, and Deris was acquitted of active corruption and inciting aggravated criminal mismanagement.

The court left open the question if the ruling would have been different had the judges been able to consider a now-updated law on private corruption which remove the need for economic damage to be proven.

FIFA was also awarded restitution of 1.75 million euros ($1.9 million) from Valcke, amounting to the kickbacks and a reimbursed deposit on the villa.

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