Swiss appeals court convicts ex-FIFA official Valcke of accepting bribes

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

ZURICH (Reuters) -A Swiss appeals court found former FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke guilty of forging documents and accepting bribes in a case involving World Cup media rights, it said on Friday.

The 61-year-old, who was secretary general of the world soccer body from 2007 to 2015, was sentenced to 11 months in jail and fined 20,000 Swiss francs ($20,900). Both penalties were suspended.

Valcke had been cleared by a lower court in 2020 of accepting bribes and aggravated criminal mismanagement, but Swiss prosecutors appealed against that verdict.

The benefits Valcke - who the appeals court acquitted on a separate charge of aggravated dishonest management - allegedly received included the rent-free use of a villa in Sardinia.

The property was owned by Nasser Al-Khelaifi, chairman of French soccer club Paris Saint-Germain and of Qatar-based media group beIN Sports.

Valcke was also accused of accepting payments worth 1.25 million euros ($1.32 million) from a third defendant, a Greek businessman also convicted of bribery by the appeals court, linked to the awarding of media rights for FIFA World and Confederations Cups.

The appeals trial of Valcke and Al-Khelaifi, who had denied bribery charges, was held in March.

The appeals court, which reached its verdicts on Thursday, acquitted Al-Khelaifi of inciting Valcke to commit criminal mismanagement.

Al-Khelaifi, 48, had denied at the appeals trial that he had struck a "corrupt arrangement" with Valcke. "That is totally wrong. It's a false accusation," he testified.

Valcke, who has been banned from all football-related activity until mid-2032 by FIFA's ethics committee, told the appeals court his professional and financial situation had deteriorated since 2015 as he had no income.

"My health is all I have left," he said.

Valcke had said he had asked Al-Khelaifi to help him as a friend back in 2013 because he was facing difficulties financing the purchase of the villa and of a new boat.

Valcke also said his request was not related to negotiations going on at the same time for World Cup media rights, adding the contract signed between beIN Sports and FIFA, also a party in the case, was financially very attractive for the world soccer body.

($1 = 0.9477 euros)

($1 = 0.9563 Swiss francs)

(Reporting by Michael Shields, editing by John Stonestreet)

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