Al-Khelaifi, Valcke in Swiss court for FIFA corruption trial
BELLINZONA, Switzerland (AP) — Qatari soccer executive Nasser al-Khelaifi and former FIFA official Jérôme Valcke arrived at federal criminal court in Switzerland on Monday at the start of their corruption trial.
Al-Khelaifi, the president of Paris Saint-Germain and chairman of Doha-based broadcaster beIN Media Group, and Valcke came to court separately and did speak publicly.
A third defendant, Greek marketing agency executive Dinos Deris, also known as Konstantinos Nteris, was not expected to attend the opening of the trial.
All three men deny wrongdoing. The trial is expected to last two weeks and a verdict is expected in late October.
Al-Khelaifi faces a lesser charge of inciting Valcke when he was FIFA secretary general to commit “aggravated criminal mismanagement.”
During a formal investigation since 2017, Swiss prosecutors questioned al-Khelaifi on suspicion of bribing Valcke with use of a luxury villa in Sardinia in 2014 and 2015.
Around that time, FIFA renewed beIN’s World Cup broadcast rights in the Middle East and north Africa for the 2026 and 2030 tournaments without rival bids. The deal was judged within the industry as good for FIFA with beIN paying above the then-market value.
FIFA withdrew its criminal complaint of possible bribery when it reached a financial settlement with al-Khelaifi before prosecutors published indictments in February.
Valcke and Deris are charged with bribery in a separate matter not involving beIN or al-Khelaifi.
Prosecutors say Valcke took three kickbacks totaling 1.25 million euros ($1.48 million) to steer World Cup rights toward favored broadcasters in Italy and Greece. He is also charged with falsifying documents by booking the payments to his private company as loans.
Valcke was banned from working in soccer by the FIFA ethics committee in 2016 for conduct separate from the charges he now faces.
Al-Khelaifi, a minister in Qatar’s government, has become more influential in world soccer since the Swiss criminal proceeding against him was revealed three years ago. He is now a member of the UEFA executive committee.
The UEFA executive committee will meet next week in Budapest, Hungary, amid the trial.
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