Qatari soccer, TV official gets trial date in FIFA case
GENEVA (AP) — Qatari soccer and television executive Nasser al-Khelaifi will go on trial in Switzerland in September, implicated in providing a holiday villa to a FIFA official linked to a World Cup broadcasting deal.
Switzerland’s federal criminal court on Tuesday said the case will begin on Sept. 14.
The court listed eight days in September to hear the case against al-Khelaifi, former top FIFA official Jerome Valcke and another broadcasting executive who was not identified.
Al-Khelaifi, the president of Qatar-owned Paris Saint-Germain who also runs Doha-based broadcaster beIN Sports Group, was charged in February with inciting Valcke to commit aggravated criminal mismanagement.
The three-year investigation centers on Valcke getting to use a luxury villa on the Italian island of Sardinia rent free in 2014 and 2015. At the time, Valcke had influence over FIFA broadcast deals, including an extension of beIN’s Middle East rights for the 2026 and 2030 World Cups.
Lawyers for al-Khelaifi said a criminal complaint has been filed on his behalf because confidential information about the case has leaked.
“A criminal investigation for suspicion of breach of official secrecy has been opened” and assigned to an external prosecutor, his lawyers said in a statement.
During the Swiss investigation, Al-Khelaifi was elected as a member of the executive committee of European soccer body UEFA. He has continued to attend meetings while under suspicion.
Al-Khelaifi is a former tennis professional and close friend of the ruling Emir in Qatar. He became a significant player in world sports and broadcasting as Qatari influence grew after being named World Cup host.
Al-Khelaifi has run French champion PSG for eight years, overseeing the purchase of star players Neymar and Kylian Mbappé.
BeIN was created from Al Jazeera Sports and amassed a portfolio of soccer rights including the Champions League from UEFA and FIFA’s World Cup. Middle East rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups were bought soon after winning the FIFA hosting vote in December 2010.
BeIN has long said it paid full market value for the 2026-2030 rights, which FIFA awarded without an open tender process.
Swiss prosecutors have accused Al-Khelaifi of arranging for Valcke to use a villa for 18 months in upscale Porto Cervo without paying rent valued at up to 1.8 million euros ($1.94 million).
Valcke was charged in February with several counts of aggravated criminal mismanagement and falsification of documents.
The French former TV presenter, who is serving a 10-year ban by FIFA, was also charged with bribery in a separate World Cup rights negotiation with the third person charged.
Swiss prosecutors believe Valcke got kickbacks totaling 1.25 million euros ($1.35 million) to steer World Cup rights toward favored broadcasters in Italy and Greece.
Those prosecutors face a second attempt by al-Khelaifi’s lawyers to have them recused from the case. A previous attempt was dismissed by federal judges in Bellinzona where the trial is scheduled to be heard.
“The impartiality, propriety and credibility of the Swiss Office of the Attorney General has been thrown into major question,” the Qatari’s lawyers said.
Switzerland’s attorney general, Michael Lauber, was disciplined last month for failing to tell the truth about a secret meeting with current FIFA president Gianni Infantino in 2017 about the wider investigation of alleged corruption in soccer. It has included at least 25 criminal proceedings.
Lauber had around 24,000 Swiss francs ($24,600) of his near-300,000 Swiss francs ($308,000) annual salary deducted. He was recused last year from involvement in FIFA cases by the Bellinzona court.
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