Al-Khelaïfi acquitted again, Valcke guilty in FIFA retrial

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FILE – Nasser bin Ghanim Al-Khelaifi, owner of Paris Saint Germain, waves to fans of his team after the end of the Champions League round of 16 football match between Manchester United and Paris Saint Germain at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester , England, Tuesday, February 12, 2019. Nasser al-Khelaïfi was acquitted Friday, June 24, 2022, for the second time by Swiss federal judges in a retrial of alleged wrongdoings linked to the former Secretary General by FIFA Jérôme Valcke. (AP Photo/Dave Thompson, Archive)

SHOVEL

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

Al-Khelaïfi was again cleared of a charge of incitement to commit criminal mismanagement compounded by allowing Valcke to enjoy a holiday home in Sardinia rent-free. The house was purchased in 2013 by a Qatari company.

Valcke, who was FIFA’s top administrator for eight years until he was removed in 2015, was convicted on separate charges that did not involve Al-Khelaïfi. They concern receiving kickbacks in negotiations for the World Cup broadcasting rights in Italy and Greece.

The Swiss federal criminal court found Valcke guilty of repeated forgery and passive corruption. He received a longer suspended sentence – 11 months instead of three – than he received after the original trial in September 2020.

A third defendant, Greek marketing executive Dinos Deris, was convicted of active corruption and given a 10-month suspended sentence after being acquitted for the first time in 2020. Both men’s sentences were suspended for two-year probationary periods.

The retrial was held in March in the Swiss federal criminal court after prosecutors appealed against the original verdicts.

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

“Years of baseless allegations, fictitious accusations and constant defamation have all proven to be completely and utterly baseless – twice,” attorney Marc Bonnant said in a statement.

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

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

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

Al-Khelaïfi’s lawyers argued that beIN’s 2026 and 2030 World Cup deal, which in court is worth $480 million in total, is good for FIFA.

While he often uses the holiday home from 2013 to 2015, Valcke also oversaw FIFA-led negotiations to move the 2022 World Cup in Qatar from June and July to the cooler months of November and December. FIFA was also awaiting and dealing with the fallout from its ethics committee’s investigation into the 2018-2022 World Cup matches.

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

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

Verdicts are due on July 8 in this case, which concerns a FIFA-approved payment by Blatter of CHF2 million ($2 million) to Platini in 2011.

Valcke remains a suspect in a separate Swiss criminal case involving Blatter and former FIFA CFO Markus Kattner.

Al-Khelaïfi is also under investigation by financial promoters in Paris for payments related to Qatar’s bids to host the world athletics championships held in Doha in 2019.

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