Switzerland has opened a criminal probe targeting Nasser al-Khelaifi, the president of Paris Saint-Germain, and FIFA’s former secretary general Jerome Valcke, over alleged corruption in the sale of World Cup media rights.
“The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland has opened a criminal proceeding against the former Secretary General of FIFA and against the Chief Executive Officer of the BEIN MEDIA GROUP LLC in connection with the award of World Cup media rights,” said the statement on Thursday from Swiss prosecutors, referring to Valcke and al-Khelaifi.
While Qatari national al-Khelaifi is the president of the famed French football club PSG, the statement indicates the alleged offences pertain to his role as the head of sports media group BEIN, which operates on five continents.
The investigation was opened in March and is separate from a probe Switzerland launched against Valcke in March of 2016 over alleged criminal mismanagement during his tenure as deputy to FIFA’s disgraced former president Sepp Blatter.
The new allegations claim that 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.”
The statement from Switzerland’s top prosecutor also alleges illegal dealings with “Nasser al-Khelaifi in connection with the award of media rights for certain countries at the FIFA World Cups in 2026 and 2030”.
The 2018 and 2022 World Cup will be played in Russia and Qatar respectively, while the 2026 and 2030 tournaments have not yet been awarded.
Valcke, a French national, was in Switzerland on Wednesday arguing an appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, where he was trying to overturn his 10-year ban from football over graft.
Valcke was interviewed by the attorney general’s representatives in Geneva on Thursday “as a suspect,” the statement said.
While Valcke was being questioned, authorities in France, Greece, Italy and Spain searched “properties” as part of the probe, the Swiss prosecutors said.