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Qatari chairman of Paris Saint-Germain named in World Cup bribery probe

Swiss prosecutors believe Nasser al-Khelaifi had bribed FIFA chairman Jerome Valcke to obtain World Cup TV rights
Kheliafi is chairman of Paris Saint-Germain and CEO of beIN Sports (AFP)

A Qatari media boss and chairman of the French football team Paris Saint-Germain has been named in a Swiss criminal investigation into suspected bribery linked to football's World Cup. 

Nasser al-Khelaifi was named by the Swiss attorney general's office (OAG) in a case investigating allegations that bribes were offered to former FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke to award the 2026 and 2030 World Cup TV rights to Khelaifi's BeIN Media group. 

"It is suspected that Jerome Valcke accepted undue advantages from a businessman in the sports rights sector in connection with the award of media rights for certain countries at the FIFA World Cups in 2018, 2022, 2026 and 2030 and from Nasser al-Khelaifi in connection with the award of media rights for certain countries at the FIFA World Cups in 2026 and 2030," Swiss federal prosecutors said on Thursday. 

Swiss prosecutors have said that Valcke was questioned on Thursday and his properties were searched in France, Greece, Italy and Spain. 

The investigation was opened in March by the OAG and is being conducted in partnership with authorities in France, Greece, Italy and Spain. 

The Paris offices of BeIN sports were searched on Thursday as part of the criminal probe, French authorities said. 

The French financial prosecutor's office issued a statement on Thursday saying that two of its representatives, along with other French officials dealing with anti-corruption and tax avoidance affairs, had carried out the search.

It added that the operation had been carried out in conjunction with the EuroJust body and Swiss authorities.

Valcke has been in the limelight in recent years over accusations of corruption. 

In February 2016 he was banned from all football-related activities for 12 years for misconduct during his term as FIFA secretary general. 

The accusations ranged from taking private jets for personal use, destroying evidence and trying to force through an undervalued sale of 2018 and 2022 World Cup television rights for the Caribbean. 

BeIN Sports operates a global network of sports channel owned and operated by beIN media group. It holds the rights to broadcast major sporting tournaments in a range of countries that include France, America, Canada and Hong Kong. 

In July French prosecutors began an investigation into whether the former president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, took kickbacks during the sale of PSG to Qatari investors in return for support for Qatar's World Cup bid. 

The Qataris said it felt "vindicated" of wrongdoing after a report said the Gulf kingdom had failed to meet FIFA standards when bidding for the World Cup.

The report came after a two-year-long investigation compiled by FIFA-appointed US prosecutor Anthony Garcia, that detailed numerous attempts by Doha to influence voting officials.

The report revealed how Qatar used bribery tactics which included sponsoring the Confederation of African Football Conference in Angola in January 2010 to market its bid for the World Cup.

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