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Swiss indict PSG boss, ex-FIFA number two in bribery case

Paris Saint-Germain’s Qatari president Nasser Al-Khelaifi at a press conference in February 2019 © AFP/File / FRANCK FIFE

GENEVA, Switzerland, Feb 20Paris Saint-Germain chief Nasser Al-Khelaifi and FIFA’s disgraced former secretary general Jerome Valcke have been indicted in Switzerland for alleged corruption in the attribution of football broadcasting rights.

The Swiss attorney general’s office (OAG) said in a statement on Thursday that the two had been charged “in connection with the award of media rights to various World Cup and FIFA Confederations Cup tournaments.”

A third, unnamed suspect in the case — described by Swiss prosecutors as “a businessman in the sports rights sector” — was also indicted, the statement said.

Al-Khelaifi, who is also the boss of Qatari television channel BeIN Sports, is suspected of giving inappropriate gifts to Valcke — including rent-free access to a luxury property — in order to secure broadcast rights to prestigious events, including the World Cup.

Valcke, formerly ex-FIFA boss Sepp Blatter’s right-hand man, is suspected of awarding those rights in exchange for bribes.

“The investigations revealed that Valcke had received undue advantages from both co-accused,” the OAG statement said.

It found that Valcke was refunded a down payment of around 500,000 euros that he had made to a third party on the purchase of a villa in Sardinia, after Al-Khelaifi purchased the villa through a company instead of Valcke.

“Valcke then received from Al-Khelaifi the exclusive right to use the villa for a period of 18 months – until he was suspended by FIFA – without having to pay an estimated rent in between about 900,000 euros and about 1.8 million euros,” it said.

On the other hand, the OAG said that the suspicion that Valcke accepted a luxury watch from Al-Khelaifi “in return for exerting his influence as Secretary General of FIFA was not found to be substantiated.”

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Al-Khelaifi was charged with “inciting Valcke to commit aggravated criminal mismanagement,” the statement said.

The unnamed businessman meanwhile faced the same charge, and was also indicted for bribery after paying Valcke’s company Sportunited LLC a total of 1.25 million euros.

“The charge of criminal mismanagement relates to the fact that Valcke had not reported the mentioned advantages that he received to FIFA, as he was required to do as its Secretary General, thus unlawfully enriching himself,” the statement said.

Valcke also stands accused of exploiting his position at FIFA between 2013 and 2015 to influence the award of media rights for Italy and Greece for various World Cup and other tournaments scheduled between 2018 and 2030 “in order to favour media partners that he preferred” in exchange for the payments from the unnamed businessman.

He has also been charged with falsifying documents, after Sportsunited’s balance sheet listed those payments as loans.

Valcke, who worked with Blatter from 2003-2015, has been banned from football for 10 years for failing to cooperate with investigators, the resale of World Cup tickets and inflated expenses.

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