LONDON — Nasser al-Khelaifi, a Qatari businessman who has grown to become one of the most prominent figures in soccer, was accused Thursday by the Swiss authorities of bribing the former FIFA general secretary Jérôme Valcke in return for lucrative World Cup soccer contracts.
Al-Khelaifi, a leading figure in Qatar’s multibillion-dollar push into global sports, is the chairman of the Paris Saint-Germain soccer team and the chief executive of the beIN Media Group, a Doha-based television network that the Swiss accuse of bribing Valcke, who is currently serving a 10-year ban from world soccer.
In its statement, the Swiss attorney general’s office said it had opened a case in March 2017 against Al-Khelaifi, Valcke and unnamed businessman on suspicion of bribery, fraud and criminal mismanagement.
“It is suspected that Jérôme Valcke accepted undue advantages from a businessman in the sports rights sector in connection with the award of media rights for certain countries at the FIFA World Cups in 2018, 2022, 2026 and 2030 and from Nasser Al-Khelaifi in connection with the award of media rights for certain countries at the FIFA World Cups in 2026 and 2030,” the statement said.
A spokesman for beIN Media Group, which has spent billions of dollars acquiring sports rights in recent years, did not immediately reply to a request for comment. Neither did Valcke, who was questioned as suspect in the case Thursday. Valcke also has been under investigation by the Swiss since March 2016 on “suspicion of various acts of criminal mismanagement.”
The Swiss have been cooperating with authorities in France, Greece, Italy and Spain, where “properties were searched in various locations,” the statement said.
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