GENEVA ( Associated Press) — Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser al-Khelaifi was acquitted in Switzerland on Friday for the second time in a retrial of wrongdoing charges linked to former FIFA general secretary Jérôme Valcke.
Al-Khelaifi was again cleared of aggravated incitement charges for allowing Valka to use a holiday home in Sardinia for free. Prosecutors tried to link the house, bought by a Qatari company in 2013, to Al-Khelaifi-led broadcaster beIN Media Group, which received an extended World Cup rights deal from FIFA.
Valcke, who was FIFA’s top administrator for eight years until he was removed from office in 2015, was again acquitted of criminal mismanagement charges and convicted on separate charges unrelated to Al-Khelaifi. They are associated with getting kickbacks in negotiations for the rights to broadcast the World Cup in Italy and Greece.
The Swiss Federal Criminal Court found Valcke guilty of repeated forgery of documents and passive corruption. He was given a longer probation – 11 months instead of three – than he received after the original trial in September 2020.
Valcke’s lawyers said in a statement that he would appeal and “the conviction is therefore by no means final.”
The third defendant, Greek head of marketing Dinos Deris, was found guilty of active corruption and sentenced to 10 months probation after being first acquitted in 2020. He was again acquitted of inciting Valcke to mismanagement contrary to FIFA’s interests.
The sentences for Valka and Deris were suspended with a two-year probationary period.
A retrial was held in March at the Swiss Federal Criminal Court after prosecutors appealed the original verdicts.
Al-Khelaifi’s second acquittal was hailed by his legal team as a “complete acquittal”.
“Years of baseless allegations, bogus accusations and constant slander have proven completely and completely unfounded – twice,” attorney Mark Bonnan said in a statement.
In a five-year investigation, Al-Khelaifi, who is also a member of the World Cup host country government, has gained power and status in European football.
Although suspected of being involved in a criminal trial in Switzerland, Al-Khelaifi was elected to the UEFA executive committee in 2019 and now leads the powerful association of European clubs after PSG refused to join the failed Super League project last year.
The charge against Al-Khelaifi centered on beIN’s renewal of the rights to the World Cup in the Middle East and North Africa with FIFA around the time the Italian villa was purchased.
Al-Khelaifi’s lawyers argued that beIN’s deal to host the 2026 and 2030 World Cups, which was valued at $480 million in court, was beneficial to FIFA.
Frequently using the holiday 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 also waited and then faced the consequences of its ethics committee’s investigation into the bidding calls for the 2018–22 World Cup..
Valka’s charges involved making three payments totaling 1.25 million euros ($1.32 million) into his personal company’s accounts as loans.
However, three appeals court judges overturned a 2020 ruling ordering Valka to be paid 1.75 million euros ($1.84 million) in compensation by FIFA.
“Mr. Valcke has not been harmed by FIFA and therefore his full acquittal on the mismanagement charge has been logically supported,” his Geneva-based law firm RVMH Attorneys said in a statement. “It is just as logical that the criminal justice system has now rejected civil lawsuits by FIFA.
Valka’s verdicts were announced the same week that former FIFA President Sepp Blatter went on trial in the same Bellinzona courthouse in a separate case. Blatter and former UEFA President Michel Platini have faced allegations of fraud, forgery and financial impropriety.
Sentences in this case are due on July 8. which concerns the Blatter-approved 2 million Swiss franc ($2 million) FIFA payment to Platini in 2011.
Blatter and Walcke remain suspects in a separate Swiss criminal trial. it also features former FIFA chief financial officer Markus Kuttner. This case concerns a $1 million payment by FIFA to the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation in 2010.
Al-Khelaifi is also under investigation by the financial prosecutor’s office in Paris. for payments related to Qatar’s bid to host the 2019 World Championships in Athletics in Doha.
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