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Old 30th October 2017, 13:31   #1
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Default Paris Saint-Germain chairman faces grilling by Switzerland’s top lawyer

Paris Saint-Germain chairman faces grilling by Switzerland’s top lawyer

• Nasser al-Khelaifi faces bribery allegations of over World Cup TV rights
• Khelaifi to be interviewed by attorney general Michael Lauber in Bern

David Conn and Angelique Chrisafis in Paris
The Guardian
Tuesday 24 October 2017 22.38 BST

Nasser al-Khelaifi, the chairman of the Qatar-owned Paris Saint-Germain and media company beIN Sports, will be questioned on Wednesday about criminal allegations that he paid bribes to the former Fifa general secretary Jérôme Valcke for World Cup TV rights.

Khelaifi, who denies wrongdoing, will face an interview at the Bern office of Switzerland’s attorney general, Michael Lauber, who accuses Khelaifi of bribing Valcke to acquire the TV rights to the 2026 and 2030 World Cups for beIN.

Fifa has confirmed that beIN, the Qatar-owned sports broadcaster formerly part of al-Jazeera, has already bought from it the rights to show those tournaments on television in the Middle East and several countries in Africa.

The attorney general’s office announced on 12 October that criminal proceedings had been opened, in effect a formal investigation, into Khelaifi and Valcke for suspected bribery, fraud, criminal mismanagement and forgery of a document. A third man, so far unnamed, faces similar criminal allegations over the purchase of the TV rights from Fifa for the 2018, 2022, 2026 and 2030 World Cups.

Legal authorities in France, Greece, Italy and Spain have cooperated with the criminal investigation, searching properties including beIN’s headquarters in Paris. Italian police have said that they seized a €7m villa on the Porto Cervo coast in Sardinia, alleged to have been provided by Khelaifi for Valcke to use.

BeIN, which has bought the TV rights to the French Ligue 1 jointly with Canal+ for a record €726.5m from 2016-20, said its Paris staff had “cooperated with the authorities until the search was over”. However a dispute arose over the level of cooperation, with the Parquet National Financier, France’s financial crimes investigatory authority, accusing beIN of refusing access to data held on its computers, because the servers were based in Doha.

BeIN argues that company permission for the authorities to access the servers had to be signed off by Khelaifi or the chief executive of beIN Sports, Yousef al-Obaidly, who were not in Paris at the time.

A beIN spokesman told the Guardian the company and Khelaifi maintain their stance to reject all the allegations, and said Khelaifi himself requested an early interview with the attorney general. Lauber is expected to make a statement about the investigation after interviewing Khelaifi.
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