Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser al-Khelaifi was on Friday acquitted on appeal by a Swiss federal court of charges of corruption in the attribution of World Cup TV rights.
FIFA’s former secretary general Jerome Valcke was also acquitted of the same charges, but received an 11-month suspended sentence for bribery and forgery of documents in a separate case.
Al-Khelaifi, who is also chairman of Qatar-owned broadcaster beIN Media, had been charged with inciting Valcke to commit “aggravated criminal mismanagement”.
Valcke, who until 2015 was the right-hand man of now ousted FIFA president Sepp Blatter, faces the bulk of the charges linked to two separate cases of television rights corruption.
The Frenchman stands accused of wanting to transfer the Middle East and North Africa rights for screening the 2026 and 2030 World Cups to beIN Media, in exchange for “unwarranted benefits” from Al-Khelaifi.
According to the prosecution, the case relates to a meeting on October 24, 2013, at the French headquarters of beIN, when Al-Khelaifi allegedly promised to buy a villa in Sardinia for five million euros ($5.9 million), granting its exclusive use to Valcke.
Al-Khelaifi was then to hand the property over to the Frenchman two years later under certain conditions. Al-Khelaifi denies buying the property in question or promising it to Valcke.
In return, the prosecution claimed, Valcke committed to “do what was in his power” to ensure beIN would become the regional broadcaster for the two World Cups, something which happened on April 29, 2014, in an agreement that FIFA has never since contested.
Valcke also stood accused of exploiting his position at FIFA between 2013 and 2015 to influence the awarding 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 payments from Greek businessman Dinos Deris, who has also been charged.