Sports

Qatari exec meets investigators in FIFA bribery case

BERN, Switzerland (AP) Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi, a Qatari soccer and television executive, was questioned Wednesday by Swiss investigators who say he bribed a FIFA official in a World Cup broadcasting rights deal.

Al-Khelaifi met with Switzerland’s federal prosecutors two weeks after they revealed criminal proceedings against him. He denies wrongdoing and has not been charged.

The interview was expected to last several hours because of issues with translation and ”lots of questions” to be asked, said Andre Marty, the spokesman for the Swiss attorney general’s office.

”The world of football needs to be patient as for the results of this first interrogation,” Marty said outside the federal building.

Al-Khelaifi was not seen arriving for questioning, which began at 9:45 a.m. (0745 GMT).

As CEO of beIN Media Group – formerly Al Jazeera Sports – Al-Khelaifi secured TV rights for four World Cups, including the 2022 tournament in Qatar, across the Middle East and North Africa.

Al-Khelaifi and former FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke are suspected of bribery, fraud, criminal mismanagement and document forgery linked to a 2026-2030 rights deal.

Key to the allegation is a luxury villa on the island of Sardinia that was seized two weeks ago.

Italian financial police say Al-Khelaifi allowed Valcke to use the property in Porto Cervo, which was valued at 7 million euros ($8.3 million). Italian police said the villa is officially owned by an international real estate company, and they questioned eight people.

Properties were searched on Oct. 12 in France, Greece, Italy, and Spain, including beIN’s offices in Paris, while Valcke was questioned in Switzerland. He is already the subject of a separate Swiss criminal proceeding in a sprawling probe of suspected corruption linked to FIFA, international soccer leaders and World Cup hosting bids.

Al-Khelaifi’s case is one of the most direct links to Qatar announced by federal law enforcement agencies in Switzerland, the United States, and France, who are cooperating on separate but linked investigations.

The 43-year-old Al-Khelaifi is a close friend of Qatar’s Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. He was appointed to run PSG when it was bought by a Qatar sovereign wealth fund within months of FIFA picking Qatar as a World Cup host in December 2010.

PSG is not publicly implicated in the Swiss case.

Al-Khelaifi risks an interim ban from soccer duty by the FIFA ethics committee while investigations continue. FIFA has said its ethics investigators are making preliminary inquiries though no formal case has been opened.

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