BeIN's Al-Khelaifi 'close to Full Play purchase' before Fifa-gate broke
Nasser Al-Khelaifi, the chairman and chief executive of BeIN Media Group, was in secret negotiations to acquire a stake in Full Play, the Argentinian agency that is a central part of 'Fifa-gate', the wide-ranging US investigation into corruption in international soccer, a US court has heard.
The planned purchase was through Qatar Sports Investment, the investment vehicle of the Gulf state
During his testimony in New York yesterday, Pena, a US government witness in the probe, revealed that Al-Khelaifi, referred to only by his first name and “[the] head of soccer club… Paris Saint-Germain” by defence attorneys, was in negotiations with the owners of Full Play, Hugo Jinkis and his son Mariano, to buy a 51-per-cent stake, with an option of a further 19 per cent, for $212 million.
The Jinkises, who remain under house arrest in Argentina, are among the 42 people and entities charged by USA in the probe that has centred on schemes in which $200 million in bribes and kickbacks concerning media and marketing rights to soccer across the Americas were alleged to have been paid to officials with links to Fifa.
Pena said the deal was kept almost entirely confidential within Full Play and only he, the owners and one other finance executive, were aware of the negotiations.
The takeover was abandoned once Full Play’s owners were indicted in the US government investigation.
Pena told prosecutors: “After 27 May , logically, the potential transaction was ended.”
A spokesman for QSI told the UK's Guardian newspaper that the company had examined acquiring a controlling shareholding in Full Play but decided against it "after closer inspection."
• BeIN is expected to make matches from January's African Nations Championship (CHAN), the national teams competition for Africa-based soccer players, available on a free-to-air basis in the host nation Morocco.
Kenya was stripped of hosting rights by the Confederation of African Football in September due to “accumulated delays” in the inspections of the country’s preparations, and Morocco was subsequently named as the replacement.
BeIN holds rights to the tournament, but with Morocco playing host, SNRT, the national broadcaster, wanted to televise the country's matches to a wider audience.
According to reports in Morocco, BeIN refused SNRT's request, but has vowed to show matches on its open channels.
The tournament will be played from 12 January to 4 February.