Nasser Al-Khelaifi, president of French football club Paris Saint-Germain, is on Monday set to go on trial in Switzerland’s federal criminal court.
The businessman, who is also chairman of Qatar-owned broadcaster beIN Media Groups and sits on the executive committee of European football’s governing body UEFA, is charged with inciting a former top FIFA official to commit “aggravated criminal mismanagement”.
Al-Khelaifi denies the charge.
Prosecutors have implicated al-Khelaifi in providing exclusive use of a luxury villa on the Italian island of Sardinia to former FIFA secretary general Jérôme Valcke.
The two men have been indicted for alleged corruption in the attribution of football broadcasting rights
The hearing, which has already been delayed because of the coronavirus, is scheduled to last until September 25 at the Federal Criminal Court of Bellinzona.
What does the prosecution say happened?
Valcke, the former right-hand man of ousted FIFA president Sepp Blatter, will appear in two separate cases of television rights corruption — he faces up to five years in prison if found guilty.
The 59-year-old Frenchman stands accused of wanting to transfer the Middle East and North Africa rights for screening the 2026 and 2030 World Cups to beIN Media, in exchange for “unwarranted benefits” from Al-Khelaifi.
According to the prosecution, the case relates to a meeting on October 24, 2013, at the French headquarters of beIN, when Al-Khelaifi allegedly promised to buy a villa in Sardinia for five million euros, granting its exclusive use to Valcke.
The 46-year-old Qatari was then to hand the property over to the Frenchman two years later under certain conditions.
In return, the prosecution claims, Valcke committed to “do what was in his power” to ensure beIN would become the regional broadcaster for the two World Cups, something which happened on April 29, 2014, in an agreement that FIFA has never since contested.
What charges are being brought?
Legally, however, it is no longer a question of “private corruption”. The prosecution had to drop that qualification because of an “amicable agreement” reached at the end of January between FIFA and Al-Khelaifi, the contents of which have not been made public.
So Valcke must now justify having “kept for himself” advantages “which should have gone to FIFA”.
An employee at the time, the obligation to return money received in the course of his duties “also applies to bribes”, according to a decision in March.
Al-Khelaifi denies buying the property in question or promising it to Valcke.
“The vast majority of this case does not relate to our client in any way,” al-Khelaifi’s team of lawyers from Switzerland and England said in a statement.
“To the extent it does, we look forward to presenting to the court the simple facts – not least given this is the first time in nearly four years we’ve been properly afforded the right to any defence.
“For the avoidance of any doubt, the recently-submitted secondary ‘reporting’ charge is manifestly artificial and lacks basis in law or fact – we have no doubt that our client will be proven innocent.”
A verdict from the three federal judges is expected late October.