Lausanne (AFP) – Swiss prosecutors are appealing the acquittal of Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi on accusations of corruption in the attribution of football broadcasting rights, a spokeswoman told AFP on Tuesday.
Khelaifi, head of broadcasting group beIN Media, was acquitted in October after a trial in which he appeared alongside former FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke.
The first of the many football scandals to result in a judicial decision, the trial before the Federal Court of Bellinzona ended in an almost total setback for the prosecution in October.
The Swiss Public Prosecutor’s Office (MPC) received the formal judgement in January and “filed a statement of appeal in February” to seek “the conviction of the three accused”, the spokeswoman said.
The prosecution alleged that at a meeting in October 2013 at the French headquarters of beIN, Al-Khelaifi promised to buy a villa in Sardinia for five million euros ($6.06 million), granting its exclusive use to Valcke in exchange for support in its bid for the TV rights in North Africa and the Middle East for the 2026 and 2030 World Cups.
At the hearings in September, prosecutors requested 28 months imprisonment for Al-Khelaifi, who is Qatari, and three years for Frenchman Valcke.
The Federal Criminal Court found Valcke guilty of a civil offence but not a criminal one.
It ruled the payment was “indeed a bribe” and ordered Valcke to pay damages to FIFA, based on the time he had spent in the villa, but the court did not find him guilty of “unfair management”, a charge which would have required proof that the agreement between the two men harmed FIFA.
The court ruled “there is nothing to indicate that FIFA could have obtained a more advantageous contract” than the one signed with beIN. It was worth $480 million for two World Cups, 60 percent more than for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
The court acquitted Al-Khelaifi in relation to that charge. A charge of “private corruption” was dropped after FIFA withdrew its complaint in January 2020 following an agreement with the Qatari, the terms of which were never made public.
Al-Khelaifi’s lawyers issued a statement on Tuesday evening.
“We will not merit this latest desperate move by the prosecution with any detailed comment whatsoever,” the statement said.
“However, for the avoidance of any doubt, we will state the obvious: our client was fully acquitted in October, after the most exhaustive four-year investigation, the most comprehensive two-week trial, and where the prosecution presented every shred of evidence and put forward every possible theory, but proved nothing. Absolutely nothing has changed since October, either in fact or in law.”
In a separate case, Valcke was accused of receiving 1.25 million euros from Dinos Deris to help obtain the media rights to several World Cups in Greece and Italy: he was again cleared of the main charge, but convicted of having entered these bribes as “loans” in his accounts.
The spokeswoman said the MPC was also appealing the criminal verdict in that case.
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