Swiss prosecutors appeal acquittal of ex-FIFA executive, Qatari businessman in media rights bribery case

  • World
  • Thursday, 18 Feb 2021

FILE PHOTO: Former FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke leaves the Swiss Federal Criminal Court (Bundesstrafgericht) in Bellinzona, Switzerland September 14, 2020. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

ZURICH (Reuters) - Swiss prosecutors have appealed against court verdicts clearing former FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke of bribery and Qatari sports and broadcasting executive Nasser Al-Khelaifi of offering him incentives in a case involving World Cup media rights.

The prosecutors also sought further charges against Valcke.

The Attorney General's Office had accused Al-Khelaifi and an unnamed businessman of committing criminal mismanagement by offering Valcke undue advantages, including the use of a villa owned by Al-Khelaifi in Sardinia rent-free.

Both Valcke and Al-Khelaifi have denied wrongdoing.

"Our client was fully acquitted in October, after the most exhaustive four-year investigation, the most comprehensive two-week trial, and where the prosecution presented every shred of evidence and put forward every possible theory, but proved nothing," lawyers for Al-Khelaifi said in a statement.

"Absolutely nothing has changed since October, either in fact or in law."

Valcke could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

FIFA said it was assessing the matter and was not in a position to comment further.

Switzerland's Federal Criminal Court in October cleared Al-Khelaifi, who is chairman of Qatari media group BeIN sports and also president of French soccer club Paris St Germain, of the charges after a two-week trial.

Valcke was acquitted of accepting bribes and criminal mismanagement. He was given a suspended fine of 24,000 Swiss francs ($26,500) for the lesser offence of falsifying documents.

On Wednesday, the Attorney General's Office said it had filed an appeal seeking to have all three men convicted on the original charges it had filed.

Prosecutors allege Valcke exploited his position as FIFA secretary general between 2013 and 2015 to influence the awarding of media rights for various World Cup and FIFA Confederations Cup tournaments to take place in the period between 2018 and 2030.

Valcke was secretary general for eight years until 2015, when he was banned by FIFA's ethics committee for 10 years for ethics violations.

The Frenchman was ordered by the Criminal Court in October to pay the Zurich-based FIFA around 1.65 million euros ($2 million) in restitution.

($1 = 0.83 euros)

(Reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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