The bribery scandal surrounding the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the international governing body of professional soccer, just keeps growing.
The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland announced that it has opened a criminal proceeding against Jérôme Valcke, the former Secretary General of FIFA, and beIN Media Group Chief Executive Officer Nasser Al-Khelaifi, for bribery allegations surrounding the award of World Cup media rights.
In a statement, beIN Media Group said that its sport offices in Boulogne-Billancourt, France were searched on 12 October 2017. “The employees on-site co-operated with the authorities until the end of the search,” the company stated.
beIN Media Group added that it “refutes all accusations made by OAG. The company will fully cooperate with the authorities and is confident as to the future developments of this investigation.”
OAG opened its criminal proceeding on 20 March 2017 against Valcke, Al-Khelaifi, and an unnamed individual in the sports rights sector on suspicion of bribery of private individuals, fraud, criminal mismanagement, and forgery of a document.
OAG said it is “suspected” that Valcke “accepted undue advantages” from a businessman in the sports rights sector for the award of media rights for the 2018 World Cup in Russia; 2022 in Qatar; and the 2026 and 2030 World Cups, and from Al-Khelaifi for the award of media rights for certain countries at the FIFA World Cups in 2026 and 2030.
As OAG announced in March 2016, it is already conducting a proceeding against Valcke on suspicion of various acts of criminal mismanagement in violation of Article 158 of the Swiss Criminal Code. This proceeding is still ongoing. In February 2016, FIFA’s Ethics Committee banned Valcke for 12 years (later reduced to 10) from all football-related activities (administrative, sports or any other) on a national and international level.
The new proceeding has been opened primarily due to findings obtained by the OAG in its earlier proceeding. On 12 October 2017 representatives of the OAG interviewed Valcke in Switzerland as a suspect.
At the same time, in cooperation with the competent authorities in France, Greece, Italy and Spain, “properties were searched in various locations.” In terms of the request for mutual legal assistance, the OAG said it was in attendance when these procedures took place.
The OAG said it is conducting around 25 criminal proceedings in the series of football-related investigations and is currently analysing seized documents containing around 19 terabytes of data (millions of pages of documents).