Fifa trial: Al-Khelaifi acquitted, Valcke escapes prison

Judged in Switzerland in one of the many world football scandals, beIN and PSG boss Nasser Al-Khelaifi was acquitted on Friday, while former Fifa N.2 Jerome Valcke received a light sentence but would have to pay 1.65 million euros to the civilian.

The three judges of the Federal Criminal Court of Bellinzona dismantled almost all the charges in their judgement, leaving only a 120-day suspended fine against Jerome Valcke, 200 Swiss francs a day, in a case unrelated to Mr. Al-Khelaifi.

โ€œThe defendants are given a yellow card, but no more,โ€ concluded the president of the court, Stephan Zenger. Marc Bonnant, one of Nasser Al-Khelaifi‘s lawyers, was delighted outside the court at the โ€œdeculotteโ€ inflicted on the prosecutor’s office in this thorny case.

Jรฉrรดme Valcke is nevertheless sentenced to pay 1.65 million euros in compensation to Fifa, of which 400,000 euros in the main case, as well as 80,000 Swiss francs in court costs.

โ€œAfter four years of baseless allegations, fictitious accusations and constant damage to my reputation, justice has completely cleared me. Today‘s verdict is a real victory,โ€ said Nasser Al-Khelaifi in a statement, which was dispensed from court appearance on Friday.

โ€œCorruptive arrangementโ€
In the main case, Valcke and Al-Khelaifi were accused of concluding a pact on the back of Fifa, which was โ€œunfair managementโ€ and punishable by five years in prison.

After ten days of hearings in September, the prosecutor had requested 28 months imprisonment for the boss of BeIN and Paris SG, 3 years for Jรฉrรดme Valcke and 30 months for a Greek businessman, Dinos Deris, who was acquitted on Friday of โ€œprivate briberyโ€.

In their judgment, however, the three magistrates considered, as did the prosecution, that Mr. Valcke had cashed his support for BeIN in exchange for a luxurious villa on the Sardinian Emerald Coast, bought for him 5 million euros at the end of 2013 by a company briefly owned by Nasser Al-Khelaifi.

The former Secretary General of Fifa requested the help of the Qatari leader to finance the โ€œVilla Biancaโ€, a few months before the signing in April 2014 of a contract between BeIN and the football body on rights in North Africa and the Middle East of the World’s 2026 and 2030.

Sweep the defence‘s argument, the court found it โ€œdifficult to believeโ€ that the arrangement around Villa Bianca had been โ€œestablished in a purely private contextโ€, seeing on the contrary a link with the rights obtained by BeIN.

In civil terms, they also described the down payment for the home repaid by Nasser Al-Khelaรฏfi to Jรฉrรดme Valcke as โ€œa bribe or a corruptive arrangementโ€. They therefore ordered the latter to give it back to his former employer.

Twenty investigations
But judges could not convict for โ€œprivate briberyโ€ in this area: Fifa withdrew its complaint in January after an agreement with Mr. Al-Khelaifi. However, according to Swiss law at the time, amended in 2016 by a โ€œFifa Lawโ€ following the scandals, the prosecutor’
s office could not pursue this charge without a complaint.

So remained the accusation of โ€œunfair managementโ€, which requires proving that the agreement between the two men hurt Fifa. But โ€œthere is no indication that Fifa could have obtained a more advantageous contractโ€ than the one signed with BeIN for 480 million dollars for two World Cups, 60% more than for the 2018 and 2022 World Championships, the court said.

In a separate case but attached to the same hearing, Jรฉrรดme Valcke was accused of having received โ‚ฌ1.25 million from Dinos Deris, in order to promote media rights for several World Cups in Greece and Italy: again he was cleared of the main charge, but sentenced for writing these bribes under the term โ€œloansโ€ in his accounting.

Beyond the fate of the three defendants, the trial was an important milestone for the Swiss justice system, which houses most of the international sports organisations on its soil, and has opened some 20 investigations around the Fifa for five years.

In April, the Federal Criminal Court had been forced to close a trial started in March on suspicion of corruption in the award of the 2006 Mondial-2006 to Germany: initially postponed due to the Covid-19, this case involving former football โ€œKaiserโ€ Frank Beckenbauer was caught up by the statute of limitations.

By CCeiT (AFP)