Al-Khelaifi's lawyers demand 'complete acquittal' of BeIN chief in 'flawed' trial
By Jonathan Rest
Lawyers for Nasser Al-Khelaifi today issued a staunch defence of the conduct of the president of BeIN Media Group and Paris Saint-Germain, who is on trial in Switzerland charged with alleged corruption in the sale of media rights to major soccer competitions.
The Qatari executive is on trial in Bellinzola with Jérôme Valcke, the former secretary general of Fifa.
Al-Khelaifi is charged with inciting Valcke to commit "aggravated criminal mismanagement," while the Frenchman faces the more serious charges of accepting bribes, aggravated criminal mismanagement and falsification of documents.
The prosecution's case against Al-Khelaifi concentrates on his alleged purchase of a villa in Sardinia for €5 million ($5.8 million) that he then made available to Valcke after BeIN renewed its media rights across the Middle East and North Africa to the 2026 and 2030 Fifa World Cups.
Following a four hour presentation from the defence, Marc Bonnant, the Swiss counsel representing Al-Khelaifi, said in a statement sent t Sportcal: “For the first time since this investigation began nearly four years ago, Nasser Al-Khelaifi’s defence has finally been heard. Each and every flaw and contradiction in the prosecution’s case was presented. The 2026-2030 media rights deal was outstanding for Fifa, far from being an undervalue.
"The villa was never owned by Mr Al-Khelaifi, far from being an undue influence. Most fundamentally – the only charge against Mr Al-Khelaifi is “incitement” of Valcke to not report matters; not a single element of incitement has been proven. The complete acquittal of Mr Al-Khelaifi has been demanded today, and emphatically so. We are confident this will be the case and that justice will be served."
The prosecution had earlier this week called for Al-Khelaifi and Valcke to be imprisoned for 28 months and three years respectively.
Fifa has never contested the MENA deal, and indeed Al-Khelaifi's legal team has highlighted the fact that at $480 million, it exceeded Fifa's own initial target of $435 million for the region.
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 deal to his employers. They said he had been pressured by Al-Khelaifi to illegally damage Fifa's interests.
Al-Khelaifi is accused of "contempt for justice" because he did not cooperate with the investigation. He has denied buying the villa, insisting he merely introduced Valcke to the property's owner and that, therefore, a private transaction took place afterwards.
Charges of bribery against Al-Khelaifi relating to BeIN’s big-money acquisition of media rights in MENA for the 2026 and 2030 World Cups were dropped in February.
His legal team maintain that the secondary charge of incitement was suddenly created last December when it became clear that the bribery charge was flawed.
Earlier this week, Valcke told the Swiss court that a €500,000 loan he received from Deris was actually a loan needed to help cover more than SFr10 million ($11 million) in personal debt run up after he bought two houses in Switzerland costing SFr7 million and a boat valued at more than SFr2 million.
He also talked of his financial struggles since being sacked by Fifa in 2015.
Deris, who is charged with bribery, has not been present in court, citing illness, and is being tried in his absence.