Monday 23 July 2018

Paris Saint-Germain president questioned in Fifa bribery probe

Nasser Al-Khelaifi is suspected of bribery, fraud, criminal mismanagement and document forgery (AP)
Nasser Al-Khelaifi is suspected of bribery, fraud, criminal mismanagement and document forgery (AP)

The president of Paris Saint-Germain football club has been questioned by Swiss investigators who say he bribed a Fifa official in a World Cup broadcasting rights deal.

Nasser Al-Khelaifi, a Qatari football and television executive, met Switzerland's federal prosecutors two weeks after they revealed criminal proceedings against him.

He denies wrongdoing and has not been charged.

Andre Marty, spokesman for the Swiss attorney general's office, said: "The world of football needs to be patient as for the results of this first interrogation."

As chief executive of beIN Media Group - formerly Al Jazeera Sports - Al-Khelaifi secured TV rights for four World Cups, including the 2022 tournament in Qatar, across the Middle East and North Africa.

Al-Khelaifi and former Fifa secretary general Jerome Valcke are suspected of bribery, fraud, criminal mismanagement and document forgery linked to a 2026-30 rights deal.

Key to the allegation is a luxury villa on the island of Sardinia that was seized two weeks ago.

Italian financial police said Al-Khelaifi allowed Valcke to use the property in Porto Cervo, which was valued at 7 million euros (£6.2 million).

Italian officials said the villa is officially owned by an international property company, and they questioned eight people.

Properties were searched on October 12 in France, Greece, Italy and Spain, including beIN's offices in Paris, while Valcke was questioned in Switzerland.

He is already the subject of a separate Swiss criminal proceeding in a sprawling probe of suspected corruption linked to Fifa, international football leaders and World Cup hosting bids.

Al-Khelaifi's case is one of the most direct links to Qatar announced by federal law enforcement agencies in Switzerland, the US and France, who are co-operating on separate but linked investigations.

Al-Khelaifi, 43, is a close friend of Qatar's Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. He was appointed to run PSG when the club was bought by a Qatar sovereign wealth fund within months of Fifa picking Qatar as a World Cup host in December 2010.

PSG is not publicly implicated in the Swiss case.

Al-Khelaifi risks an interim ban from football by the Fifa ethics committee while investigations continue. Fifa has said its ethics investigators are making preliminary inquiries though no formal case has been opened.

Swiss prosecutors have been investigating Fifa and suspected money-laundering linked to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosting contests since November 2014.

Criminal proceedings for suspected financial wrongdoing were first opened last year against Valcke, months after his emails were among evidence seized from Fifa. The former TV presenter from France was the top official under then-Fifa president Sepp Blatter for more than eight years until he was fired in January last year.

AP

Press Association

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