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Qatari president of PSG football club investigated for alleged corruption

Nasser al-Khelaifi charged with 'active corruption' in relation to Qatar's bid to host World Athletics Championships
Khelaifi is a leading figure in Qatar's sports establishment alongside his role at Paris Saint-Germain (AFP)

The Qatari president of Paris Saint-Germain football club has been placed under formal investigation in France for alleged corruption related to Doha’s bid to host a prestigious athletics world championship.

Nasser al-Khelaifi was questioned by investigators in March in relation to the bidding process for the 2017 World Athletics Championships.

Qatar was unsuccessful in its bid to host the championships, which went to London. But Qatar did go on to secure the rights to hold the 2019 world championships to be held in October.

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Khelaifi now faces the charge of “active corruption” based on an alleged payment of $3.5m to Papa Massata, the Senegalese former head of the International Association of Athletics Federations, the world governing body for athletics.

A judicial source told Reuters that the investigation into Khelaifi's alleged wrongdoing spanned both bidding processes.

France's financial prosecutors allege that a company belonging to Papa Massata received $3.5m from Oryx Qatar Sports Investments, just one of several multi-million dollar payments received by his family.

A source familiar with the matter told Reuters that Oryx Qatar Sports Investments had undertaken to pay $32.5m for the commercial rights to the 2017 championships of which a fraction was paid upfront as a non-refundable deposit. The full amount was conditional on Qatar winning the bid, the source said.

Oryx QSI is owned by Khelaifi and his brother, Khalid, and is a subsidiary of the Qatar Investment Authority, a state holding.

Qatar's government communications office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Oryx could not immediately be reached for comment.

Nasser Khelaifi is also chairman of beIN Media Group, a television network that holds regional rights to many of the world's top sporting events, including World Cup soccer.

He is currently under investigation in a separate case by Swiss prosecutors for providing "undue advantages" to soccer's global governing body FIFA for broadcasting rights for the 2026 and 2030 World cup.

Khelaifi, 45, is deeply involved with sports and sporting events in Qatar. He serves as chairman of Oryx Qatar Sports Investments and the Qatar Tennis Federation, alongside his role as president of Paris Saint-Germain. He is also a minister without portfolio in the Qatari government.

The judge's decision means Khelaifi is now formally treated as a suspect and takes the legal process one step closer to trial. Under French law, however, a suspect is not formally charged with a crime unless he is sent to trial.