PSG boss cleared again in FIFA retrial

Staff WritersAP
Nasser al-Khelaifi has been acquitted again in relation to a World Cup TV rights investigation.
Camera IconNasser al-Khelaifi has been acquitted again in relation to a World Cup TV rights investigation. Credit: AP

Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser al-Khelaifi has been acquitted in Switzerland for a second time in a retrial of alleged wrongdoing linked to former FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke.

Al-Khelaifi was on Friday cleared again of a charge of incitement to commit aggravated criminal mismanagement for allowing Valcke to use a vacation home in Sardinia rent free. The home was bought in 2013 by a Qatari company.

Valcke, who was FIFA's top administrator for eight years until being removed in 2015, was convicted on separate charges not involving Al-Khelaifi. They relate to taking kickbacks in negotiations for World Cup broadcast rights in Italy and Greece.

The Swiss federal criminal court found Valcke guilty of repeated forgery and passive corruption. He was given a longer suspended sentence -- 11 months instead of three -- than he received after the original trial in September 2020.

A third defendant, Greek marketing executive Dinos Deris, was convicted of active corruption and given a 10-month suspended sentence after first being acquitted in 2020. Both men's sentences were suspended for probationary periods of two years.

The retrial was held in March at the Swiss federal criminal court after prosecutors appealed against the original verdicts.

Al-Khelaifi's second acquittal was hailed by his legal team as "total vindication."

"The years of baseless allegations, fictitious charges and constant smears have been proven to be completely and wholly unsubstantiated -- twice," lawyer Marc Bonnant said in a statement.

During a five-year investigation, Al-Khelaifi, the head of Qatari broadcaster beIN Media Group and a member of the World Cup host nation's government, rose in power and status in European soccer.

Despite being a suspect in Swiss criminal proceedings, Al-Khelaifi was elected in 2019 to join the UEFA executive committee and now leads the influential European Club Association after PSG refused to join the failed Super League project last year.

The prosecution case against Al-Khelaifi focused on beIN's renewal of World Cup rights in the Middle East and North Africa with FIFA around the time the Italian villa was bought.

Lawyers for Al-Khelaifi argued beIN's deal for the 2026 and 2030 World Cups, said in court to be worth $480 million ($A694m) in total, was good for FIFA.

Al-Khelaifi has also been under investigation by financial prosecutors in Paris for payments linked to Qatari bids to host the track and field world championships, staged in Doha in 2019.

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