Swiss court sets trial date for PSG chief, ex-FIFA secretary general

The case, involving the pair and a third, unnamed man, relates to criminal mismanagement, incitement to criminal mismanagement and falsifying documents.

Former FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke (L) and Paris Saint-Germain's Qatari president Nasser Al-Khelaifi.   -  AFP

A Swiss court scheduled a September trial date for Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi and FIFA's former secretary general Jerome Valcke, in an alleged corruption case.

The case, involving the pair and a third, unnamed man, relates to alleged criminal mismanagement, incitement to criminal mismanagement, falsifying documents and corruption, the Federal Criminal Court said on its website.

The court is based in the southeastern Swiss city of Bellinzona.

When filing the indictment in February, the office of Switzerland's attorney general (OAG) said the men faced charges linked “with the award of media rights to various World Cup and FIFA Confederations Cup tournaments.”

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After the date was set on Tuesday, Al-Khelaifi's lawyers issued a statement insisting the case was “completely unfounded”, and said the allegation against their client was “manifestly artificial.”

They also indicated that they had requested the recusal of the prosecutors in the case and had filed a criminal complaint related to leaks, “making it uncertain whether the case will proceed at all.”

Al-Khelaifi, who is also the boss of Qatari television channel BeIN Sports, had been suspected of giving inappropriate gifts to Valcke, formerly ex-FIFA boss Sepp Blatter's right-hand man, in order to secure broadcast rights to prestigious events, including the World Cup.

But in February, the OAG said it dropped “a criminal complaint of bribery” against Al-Khelaifi linked to the award of media rights for World Cup tournaments in 2026 and 2030 and other events, after FIFA withdrew the complaint it was based on, following an “amicable agreement” with Al-Khelaifi.

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Prosecutors however accused him of inciting the non-reporting of a gift.

The indictment in February also accused the third man, described as “a businessman in the sports rights sector”, of bribery over a 1.25-million-euro ($1.35 million) payment to Valcke's company Sportunited LLC.

Valcke meanwhile stands accused of exploiting his position at FIFA between 2013 and 2015 to influence the award of media rights for Italy and Greece for various World Cup and other tournaments scheduled between 2018 and 2030 “in order to favour media partners that he preferred,” in exchange for the payments from the unnamed businessman, according to that indictment.

He has also been charged with falsifying documents, after Sportsunited's balance sheet listed those payments as loans.

Switzerland's judiciary last week rejected a request from Al-Khelaifi for three federal prosecutors in the case to be recused, over claims that during a hearing on December 6, 2019, he had not been given enough time to address all of the aspects of the case he deemed were necessary.

Valcke, who worked with Blatter from 2003 to 2015, has already been banned from football for 10 years for failing to cooperate with investigators over the resale of World Cup tickets and inflated expenses.

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