Al-Khelaifi and Valcke go on trial over World Cup TV rights
The trial of Nasser Al-Khelaifi, the prominent Qatari sports and media executive, and Jérôme Valcke, the former secretary general of Fifa, related to alleged corruption in the sale of media rights to major soccer competitions, began in Switzerland today.
Al-Khelaifi, chairman of Qatar-based international pay-TV broadcaster BeIN Media and president of French soccer giants Paris-Saint Germain, is charged with inciting Valcke (pictured) to commit "aggravated criminal mismanagement."
The trial, which has already been delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic, is taking place at the Federal Criminal Court of Bellinzona, and due to run until 25 September.
Charges of bribery against Al-Khelaifi relating to BeIN’s big-money acquisition of media rights in the Middle East and North Africa to the 2026 and 2030 World Cups were dropped in February.
His legal team have claimed this secondary charge of inciting Valcke was suddenly created last December when it became clear that the bribery charge was flawed.
Valcke, who is already serving a Fifa-imposed 10-year ban from soccer, is charged with accepting bribes, aggravated criminal mismanagement and falsification of documents.
Both men face prison sentences of up to five years if found guilty.
The Frenchman is accused of wanting to transfer the MENA rights for the 2026 and 2030 World Cups to BeIN in exchange for "unwarranted benefits" from Al-Khelaifi.
According to the prosecution, the case relates to a meeting on 24 October 2013 at the French headquarters of BeIN, when Al-Khelaifi allegedly promised to buy a villa in Sardinia for €5 million ($5.9 million), granting its exclusive use to Valcke.
Al-Khelaifi, who has denied the charges, was then to hand the property over to the Frenchman two years later under certain conditions.
In return, the prosecution claims, Valcke committed to "do what was in his power" to ensure BeIN would get the World Cup rights, something which happened on 29 April, 2014, in an agreement that Fifa has never since contested.
Valcke also stands accused of exploiting his position at Fifa between 2013 and 2015 to influence the awarding of media rights in Italy and Greece to World Cup and Confederations Cup tournaments between 2018 and 2030 "in order to favour media partners that he preferred" in exchange for payments from Dinos Deris, a Greek businessman in the sports sector, who has also been charged.
Valcke "disputes the charges," according to his legal team.
The case has been weakened by accusations of collusion resulting from three secret meetings in 2016 and 2017 between Fifa president Gianni Infantino and Switzerland's former attorney general Michael Lauber.
Lauber has stepped down after a court found that he had misled investigators in covering up a meeting with Infantino in June 2017 amid the corruption probe.