Former FIFA Secretary-General Jerome Valcke and Qatari sports and broadcasting executive Nasser Al-Khelaifi denied bribery charges involving World Cup media rights in the appeals court of Switzerland’s Federal Criminal Court on Monday.
Valcke, 61, who was Secretary-General of the world soccer body from 2007 to 2015, was initially cleared in 2020 of accepting bribes and aggravated criminal mismanagement, but Swiss prosecutors appealed the ruling.
The advantages Valcke allegedly received, including the rent-free use of a villa owned by Al-Khelaifi in Sardinia and payments totalling $1.36 million from a third defendant, a Greek businessman, were linked to the awarding of media rights for FIFA World and Confederations Cups.
Judges first questioned 48-year-old Al-Khelaifi, chairman of Qatar-based media group beIN Sports and of French football club Paris Saint-Germain, about the acquisition of the villa Valcke allegedly used without paying rent in return for securing beIN media group media rights for the 2026 and 2030 World Cups.
Asked whether he had struck a “corrupt arrangement” with Valcke, Al-Khelaifi said: “That is totally wrong. It’s a false accusation.”
Valcke, who has been banned from all football-related activity until mid-2032 by FIFA’s ethics committee, said his professional and financial situation had deteriorated since 2015 as he had no income.
“My health is all I have left,” he told the court. Valcke said he had asked Al-Khelaifi to help him as a friend back in 2013 because he was facing difficulties financing the purchase of the villa and of a new boat.
“I am not proud of it, I would have had fewer problems if I’d been reasonable,” Valcke said. “I turned to Nasser because I knew him. That was Jerome talking to Nasser and not the FIFA secretary-general to the president of beIN Sports.”
He said his request was not related to negotiations going on at the same time for World Cup media rights, adding the contract signed between beIN Sports and FIFA, also a party in the case, was financially very attractive for the world soccer body.
“I am determined to contest the whole interpretation the court adopted in the first ruling,” Valcke said.
He was sentenced in 2020 to a suspended fine for forging documents, while Al-Khelaifi as well as the Greek businessman were cleared of inciting Valcke to commit aggravated criminal mismanagement.
Bribery charges against Al-Khelaifi were dropped ahead of the 2020 trial after he reached an agreement with FIFA.
The appeals trial is due to last until Thursday.