Nasser Al-Khelaifi, chairman of international broadcaster BeIN Media Group, has been cleared in a corruption investigation into Qatar’s bid to stage the World Athletics Championships in 2017.
The case was dismissed by France’s Court of Cassation, which ruled that Al-Khelaifi had no connection to the alleged corruption.
This was in relation to payments made by Oryx Qatar Sports Investments (QSI), which is run by his brother Khalid Al-Khelaifi, prior to the vote to select the host city for the event.
Nasser Al-Khelaifi was suspected of having “validated” a payment of $3.5 million to the late Lamine Diack, the former president of governing body World Athletics (formerly IAAF), to facilitate the award of the World Championships to Doha.
The event was ultimately awarded to London, however, with the following edition in 2019, being awarded to Doha.
Al-Khelaifi, who is also president of French soccer giants Paris Saint-Germain, had always denied any wrongdoing.
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In 2019, his lawyer Francis Szpiner described the claims against the BeIN chairman as “totally inaccurate” and attributed them in part to “regrettable confusion by the investigating magistrate who confused Oryx QSI, a purely private company run by his brother, with QSI, a sovereign Qatari fund with Nasser Al-Khelaifi as president!”
As well as Al-Khelaifi, BeIN chief executive Yousef Al-Obaidly has been cleared of any wrongdoing. He had also strongly denied that he was involved in a corruption investigation together with Diack.
However, Al-Obaidly is understood to have claimed that the $3.5 million was paid upfront to the IAAF and Dentsu, its marketing partner, as a non-refundable deposit. This deposit was lost when London, not Doha, won the bid – a commercial risk that Al-Obaidly and Oryx were prepared to take.
Al-Obaidly also claimed that all transactions at the time were legally and properly documented and communicated to the IAAF.
All actions taken at the time were in full compliance with any terms and conditions as laid down by the IAAF and its representatives and agents (Dentsu, the Japanese advertising giant that acts for the IAAF, and Papa Massata Diack, the son of Lamine Diack who was a marketing consultant to the IAAF at the time).
Diack senior, who passed away in 2021 at the age of 88, had been found guilty of corruption in 2020 and charged with covering up positive doping tests of Russian athletes in return for money. Following a trial in Paris, he was sentenced to four years in prison, two of them suspended, although he was never jailed.
Following the dismissal of the case by the French court, Szpiner and Renaud Semerdjian, who was also representing Al-Khelaïfi said: “We take note with satisfaction the ruling of the Court of Causation in France, which dismisses the IAAF-related procedure against Nasser Al-Khelaïfi and Yousef Al-Obaidly in its entirety.
“For years, this case evidentially had zero standing and completely flawed merits. The rule of law has prevailed, with the matter fully and finally closed with absolutely no case to answer.”
Image: Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images