Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 17 August 2019

BeIN media group CEO Yousef Al Obaidly charged in French corruption probe

Preliminary charges relate to ongoing investigation into bidding process for the 2019 track world championships in Qatar

In this file photo taken on December 8, 2015 Yousef al-Obaidly, chief executive officer of media group BeIN, has been handed preliminary charges of corruption in relation to the bidding process for the world athletics championship in Doha this year. AFP
In this file photo taken on December 8, 2015 Yousef al-Obaidly, chief executive officer of media group BeIN, has been handed preliminary charges of corruption in relation to the bidding process for the world athletics championship in Doha this year. AFP

Yousef Al Obaidly, the chief executive of media group BeIN, was handed preliminary charges of corruption as part of a French investigation into the bidding process for the 2019 IAAF World Championships in Qatar.

The Associated Press reported on Wednesday that a judicial official confirmed that Al Obaidly was indicted on March 28.

Mr Al Obaidly is closely aligned with Paris Saint-Germain president and BeIN chairman Nasser Al Khelaifi. Mr Al Obaidly is also a board member of the French club.

He denies any wrongdoing and says that he has fully cooperated with the French investigation.

“I voluntarily attended an appointed meeting as part of a preliminary investigation,” Mr Al Obaidly said. “The allegations raised are not only utterly baseless and unsubstantiated, but they have been - quite remarkably - leaked to the media.

“For the avoidance of any doubt whatsoever, the allegations are completely and categorically denied and will be vehemently challenged using the full force of the law.”

In November 2016, Le Monde newspaper obtained documents showing that a former IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) official received two payments totalling about $3.5 million (Dh12.9m) from Qatari investors before the vote for the 2017 world championships.

London was awarded the event those while Doha was later chosen to host this year's event. The championships will be held at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha from September 27 to October 6.

The two payments from Oryx Qatar Sports Investments, an investment fund linked to the Qatari government, were made to Pamodzi Sports Marketing in October and November 2011, days before the vote, Le Monde reported.

Officials close to Mr Al Obaidly say that Oryx was set up to handle sponsorship, television rights and ticketing for Qatar’s bid.

The $3.5 million represented a non-returnable deposit of more than 10 per cent for the commercial rights if Qatar won the right to host the 2017 games. The full payment of $32.5 would have been made if Doha had successfully won hosting rights.

Officials said that the IAAF were aware of the payments and sanctioned the process.

Pamodzi was founded by Papa Massata Diack, a former marketing consultant at the IAAF, who has been banned over allegations that he extorted hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Russian marathon runner who wanted to avoid a doping ban before the 2012 Olympics.

Diack is the son of former IAAF president Lamine Diack. According to Le Monde, Lamine Diack was handed preliminary charges of “passive corruption” in March on suspicion he favoured the Qatari bid in exchange for money transferred to his son’s company.

French prosecutors have recommended that both men stand trial and have accused them of taking bribes and money laundering in relation to the doping scandal.

Lamine Diack is under house arrest in France while his son is in Senegal. They both deny any wrongdoing. Senegal has refused extradition requests for Papa Massata Diack.

“Under the leadership of its president (Lamine Diack) and over the course of several years of wrongdoing, the IAAF managed to combine corruption with the encouragement of doping,” the prosecutors wrote in an indictment, seen by Reuters.

“(Diack’s) actions, which were in complete contradiction with his role, allowed doping athletes from one country to continue to compete and participate in the biggest world competitions in exchange for money,” it said.

Mr Al Obaidly, a graduate of Seattle University, was promoted from deputy to chief executive of BeIN last year after leading the launch of BeIN Sports France, Americas and Asia-Pacific. He had previously worked with Mr Al Khelaifi to rebrand the former Al Jazeera Sport into BeIN. His involvement in establishing the network dates back to 2003, according to his profile on the company’s website.

Updated: May 22, 2019 06:30 PM

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