Valcke and Al-Khelaifi braced for corruption trial verdict
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Lausanne (AFP) –
Former FIFA number two Jerome Valcke and Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi will discover Friday if their roles in the "Fifagate" scandal, regarding alleged corruption in the allocation of World Cup TV rights, are damning enough to land them a stretch behind bars.
That is when the Swiss Federal Criminal Court of Bellinzona, which conducted 10 days of hearings in September, will announce the verdict on the two men, along with Greek businessman Dinos Deris.
Prosecutors have called for a jail term of three years for Valcke, a 28-month sentence for Al-Khelaifi, who is also president of beIN Media, and 30 months for Deris -- with partial suspension in all three cases.
It will be 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 FIFA. Two former Latin American football leaders have 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.
Al-Khelaifi is included in the first charge.
The public prosecutor's office said Valcke sought the Qatari's help in the summer of 2003 to buy a luxury villa in Sardinia, at a time when beIN, a Qatari-owned broadcaster, was negotiating the extension of its media rights in North Africa and the Middle East for the 2026 and 2030 World Cups.
The prosecutor said Al-Khelaifi acquired the house for five million euros ($5.85 million), via a company that was transferred almost immediately to the brother of one of his close collaborators, before it was made available to Valcke.
- 'Corrupt agreement' -
The two men denied a "corrupt agreement" and said the deal was a "private" arrangement, unrelated to the contract concluded by beIN with FIFA in April 2014.
The prosecution said Valcke committed to "do what was in his power" to ensure beIN would win the contract and should have declared the Villa Bianca deal to his employers. They said he had been pressured by Al-Khaleifa to damage FIFA's interests illegally.
The defence argued that the trial was "muddied" by the revelation of informal meetings between former Swiss attorney general Michael Lauber and current FIFA president Gianni Infantino.
Lauber resigned from his post in July and both men are under investigation for suspected collusion.
Al-Khelaifi's lawyers have told AFP that the charges against their client are "clearly artificial".
The Swiss prosecutors had to drop a charge of corruption because of an out-of-court settlement in January between Al-Khelaifi and FIFA, which then withdrew its complaint against him.
Valcke also stands accused of exploiting his position at FIFA to influence the awarding of media rights for Italy and Greece for World Cups and other tournaments between 2018 and 2030 "to favour media partners that he preferred" in exchange for payments from Deris.
Pahud accepted in court, however, that the 59-year-old Frenchman had already paid a heavy price over the past five years.
Valcke, a former journalist who lives in Barcelona, "has suffered professionally in recent years. He has not found a job after FIFA," Pahud said.
Valcke told the court that he had been unable to open a bank account in Europe since 2017, had to sell his yacht and jewellery and had his Porsche Cayenne stolen.
FIFA is claiming "between 1.4 and 2.3 million euros" from Valcke for having benefitted from Villa Bianca for 18 months. It is also looking for 1.25 million euros in relation to the case between Valcke and Deris.
The court is due to deliver its verdict on Friday at 13h30 local time (1230GMT).
© 2020 AFP