Swiss probe into Nasser Al-Khelaifi's role in award of media rights for Fifa World Cups
PSG president and CEO of Qatari broadcaster beIN under investigation for bribery
Swiss authorities said that criminal proceedings have been opened against Nasser Al-Khelaifi, the chief executive of Qatari broadcaster beIN over suspicions of bribery, fraud, forgery and criminal mismanagement related to the award of media rights for the 2026 and 2030 World Cups.
According to the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland, Mr Al-Khelaifi, who is also the president of French football club Paris Saint-Germain, is suspected of having bribed Fifa’s former secretary general Jerome Valcke, who is also included in the proceedings together with an unnamed “businessman in the sports rights sector”. The latter is suspected of bribing Mr Valcke for the rights for the 2018, 2022, 2026 and 2030 World Cups.
Yesterday, Mr Valcke was interviewed in Switzerland as a suspect and properties in France, Greece, Italy and Spain were searched.
“The criminal proceeding has been opened on 20 March 2017 against …. Valcke… Al-Khelaifi and a businessman in the sports rights sector, on suspicion of bribery of private individuals…fraud, criminal mismanagement and forgery of a document. It is suspected that Jérôme Valcke accepted undue advantages from a businessman in the sports rights sector in connection with the award of media rights for certain countries at the FIFA World Cups in 2018, 2022, 2026 and 2030 and from Nasser Al-Khelaifi in connection with the award of media rights for certain countries at the FIFA World Cups in 2026 and 2030,” a statement issued yesterday by the Swiss attorney general’s office said.
BeIN has exclusive rights to broadcast live matches from the English Premier League, Spain’s La Liga, Germany’s Bundesliga, Italy’s Serie A, France’s Ligue 1 and the UEFA Champions League across the Middle East and North Africa region and also has the rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
The 2018 and 2022 World Cups will be played in Russia and Qatar respectively, while the 2026 and 2030 tournaments have not yet been awarded.
A report this week warned that there was a real possibility that Qatar may not host the tournament at all. Published by management consultants Cornerstone Global, Qatar in focus: Is the Fifa World Cup 2022 in danger? stated that many western diplomats had privately expressed their doubts about Qatar hosting the tournament.
"The reasons for this are many and include open allegations of corruption — both in the bidding process and in the infrastructure development," the report said.
"Given the current political situation … it is certainly possible that the tournament will not be held in Qatar. Any cancellation of Qatar hosting the World Cup 2022 will likely be abrupt and will leave contractors involved in a precarious situation that may not be easily resolved."
The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Gargash has said that Qatar's hosting of the 2022 World Cup should include a repudiation of terrorism and extremism. The UAE, along with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt cut travel, trade and diplomatic links with the country on June 5 over concerns that Qatar is funding terrorism.