Al-Khelaifi acquitted again, Falki guilty in the retrial of FIFA

GENEVA (AFP) – Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi was acquitted in Switzerland on Friday for the second time in a retrial of alleged wrongdoing linked to former FIFA Secretary-General Jerome Valcke.

Al-Khelaifi was once again acquitted of aggravating criminal mismanagement for allowing Valcke to use a vacation home in Sardinia without rent. The house was purchased in 2013 by a Qatari company.

Falk, who was FIFA’s director for eight years until he was removed in 2015, was convicted on separate charges not related to Al-Khelaifi. It’s about receiving commissions in negotiations for World Cup broadcasting rights in Italy and Greece.

The Swiss Federal Criminal Court found Valcke guilty of repeated forgery and passive corruption. He was given a longer suspended prison sentence – 11 months instead of three – than he received after the original trial in September 2020.

A third defendant, Greek marketing executive Dinos Deris, was convicted of active corruption and given a 10-month suspended prison sentence after he was first acquitted in 2020. The two men’s sentences were suspended for two-year probationary periods.

A retrial was held in March at the Swiss Federal Criminal Court after prosecutors appealed against the original rulings.

His legal team praised Al-Khulaifi’s second acquittal, describing it as a “complete acquittal”.

“Years of unfounded allegations, fictitious charges and ongoing defamation have been completely unfounded – twice,” attorney Mark Ponant said in a statement.

During a five-year investigation, Al-Khelaifi, Chairman of Qatar’s beIN Media Group and member of the government of the World Cup host country, has risen to power and prestige in European football.

Despite being a suspect in Swiss criminal proceedings, Al-Khelaifi was elected in 2019 to join UEFA’s executive committee and now leads the influential European Club Association after Paris Saint-Germain refused to join the failed Premier League project last year.

The lawsuit against Al-Khelaifi focused on beIN’s renewal of the World Cup rights in the Middle East and North Africa with FIFA around the time of the purchase of the Italian villa.

Al-Khelaifi’s lawyers said beIN’s deal to host the 2026 and 2030 World Cups, which was said in court to be worth a total of $480 million, was good for FIFA.

While he often used the vacation home from 2013 to 2015, Valcke also oversaw FIFA-led talks to move the 2022 World Cup in Qatar from June and July to the cooler months of November and December. FIFA has also been awaiting, and then dealing with, a fallout from the Ethics Committee’s investigation into the 2018-2022 World Cup hosting competitions.

The charges against Valcke were related to making three payments totaling 1.25 million euros ($1.45 million) to his personal company accounts as loans.

Valcke’s convictions were announced the same week that former FIFA president Sepp Blatter was being tried in the same Bellinzona court in a separate case. Blatter and former European Union President Michel Platini faced charges of fraud, forgery and financial misconduct.

Judgment is scheduled for July 8 in this case. which relates to a payment of 2 million Swiss francs ($2 million) to Platini in 2011, which Blatter approved by FIFA.

Valcke remains a suspect in a separate Swiss criminal case involving Blatter and former FIFA chief financial officer Marcus Kattner, in connection with a $1 million payment to the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association in 2010.

Al-Khulaifi was also investigated by financial prosecutors in Paris on payments related to Qatari bids to host the World Athletics Championships, which were held in Doha in 2019.

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