Qatar’s Nasser Al Khelaifi, the president of Paris St-Germain, has been acquitted
Qatar’s Nasser Al Khelaifi, the president of Paris St-Germain, has been acquitted Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: Former Fifa secretary general Jerome Valcke has been convicted in a corruption case in Switzerland, while Qatar’s Nasser Al Khelaifi, the president of Paris St-Germain (PSG), was acquitted, on Friday.

Valcke was found guilty of a lesser charge of forging documents linked to World Cup broadcasting deals in Italy and Greece. He was also acquitted of accepting bribes and criminal mismanagement while he was Fifa secretary general from 2007 to 2015.

Valcke was given a 120-day suspended sentence and ordered to pay Fifa an amount of 1.75 million euros (Dh7.35 million). Prosecutors had pressed for a three-year sentence.

PSG president Al Khelaifi, who is also a Qatari football and television executive, was cleared of a single charge of inciting Valcke to commit aggravated criminal mismanagement.

That charge was linked to Valcke’s use of a vacation home in Italy about six years ago. At the time, Fifa renewed World Cup rights in the Middle East and North Africa for Qatari broadcaster BeIN Media Group, which is led by Al Khelaifi.

A third defendant, Greek marketing agency executive Dinos Deris, was acquitted on charges of active corruption with Valcke and inciting him.

All had been allegedly involved for their roles in what is called the ‘Fifagate’ scandal, regarding alleged corruption in the allocation of World Cup TV rights.

Jerome Valcke Image Credit: AP

The Swiss Federal Criminal Court of Bellinzona had conducted 10 days of hearings in September, and the verdict was finally pronounced on Friday. Prosecutors had called for a jail term of three years for Valcke, a 28-month sentence for Al Khelaifi and 30 months for Deris — with partial suspension in all three cases.

This was the first judgement handed down in Switzerland, the seat of most international sports organisations, in the 20 or so proceedings opened in the last five years involving the world governing body for football. Two former Latin American football leaders have already been jailed in the United States.

Valcke, the former right-hand man of disgraced Fifa president Sepp Blatter, was on trial on two charges related to his quest for money to maintain what Federal Prosecutor Joel Pahud called a “spendthrift” lifestyle.

Qatar’s Al Khelaifi was pleased with the court ruling in his favour. “Today’s verdict is a total vindication,” he said in a statement.

“It restores my faith in the rule of law and in due process, after four years of baseless allegations, fictitious charges and constant smears of my reputation,” the statement added.

Al Khelaifi, who is a minister in Qatar’s government and a member of the Uefa executive committee, was not linked to the bribery charge against Valcke.

Valcke’s conviction, albeit on a minor charge, is the first secured by the Swiss prosecutors who began investigating FIFA and international soccer officials six years ago.