Italian luxury villa seized in FIFA, World Cup bribery case

AP , Friday 13 Oct 2017

File Photo: Nasser Al-Khelaifi will take his seat in the Presidentielle Stand at the Parc des Princes for the first leg of the crucial Champions League last 16 tie against Barcelona. (Photo: AFP)

A villa valued at seven million euros ($8.3 million) on an Italian island was allegedly how a Qatari television executive bribed a top FIFA official.

Italian police said Friday they seized the luxury property in Sardinia they claim Nasser al-Khelaifi, who is also president of Paris Saint-Germain, made available to former FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke.

Details of the alleged corruption were revealed one day after Swiss federal prosecutors oversaw evidence-gathering raids in four European countries for a widening investigation of FIFA and the 2018-2022 World Cup bidding contests won by Russia and Qatar.

Criminal proceedings have been opened against Al-Khelaifi and Valcke for suspected bribery and forgery linked to awarding broadcast rights for the next four World Cups.

Al-Khelaifi is also CEO of Qatar-owned BeIN Media Group, which has World Cup rights across the Middle East through 2030, including the 2022 tournament in Qatar.

Italy's financial police said in a statement the villa in Porto Cervo is owned by an international real estate company, and eight people were questioned.

A police video showed a sequestration order on the villa's fine wooden gate, palm trees in a well-kept garden, and a white house with a Spanish-style roof.

Investigators believe the property was for the use of Valcke, FIFA's CEO-like secretary general from 2007 until being fired in January 2016 amid separate corruption claims.

Valcke was questioned Thursday in Switzerland, one day after he testified at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne to challenge his 10-year ban by FIFA for financial misconduct.

Al-Khelaifi was not present Thursday when the Paris offices of BeIN were raided by French authorities joined by Swiss investigators.

BeIN said the group "refutes all accusations" and that "the company will fully cooperate with the authorities and is confident as to the future developments of this investigation."

Though PSG is not implicated in the case, FIFA's ethics committee can impose an interim ban on the club president working in soccer while it investigates.

FIFA said Friday no formal investigation has yet been opened against Al-Khelaifi though ethics investigators are making preliminary inquiries.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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