Ex-FIFA Official Valcke Found Guilty of Forgery by Swiss

A former senior FIFA executive was found guilty of falsifying documents, but cleared of more serious charges that he took more than $1 million in bribes for World Cup broadcast rights.

Jerome Valcke, ex-secretary general of international soccer’s governing body, was ordered to pay FIFA more than a 1 million euros ($1.17 million) in restitution, but will avoid jail time, in a sentence issued by a Swiss court Friday. Two other men, including BeIn Media Chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi, were also cleared by the court of bribery-related charges.

Valcke’s acquittal on the more serious counts of criminal mismanagement and bribery is a setback for Swiss prosecutors in a five-year-old scandal that has ensnared international soccer. While the U.S. successfully prosecuted executives, the trial in Bellinzona, Switzerland, was the first time a senior figure at Zurich-based FIFA had been charged in Europe.

Patrick Hunziker, Valcke’s lawyer, said that they will take time to consider an appeal. The 60-year-old was convicted for having falsely booked three payments he received from Greek businessman Konstantinos Nteris as loans.

The probe that preceded the trial was opened amid broad allegations of corruption at FIFA that forced Joseph “Sepp” Blatter to resign as president. Most of FIFA’s board was replaced after the bribery probes triggered early morning police raids in high-end hotels near its headquarters. Blatter, given a six-year ban by the organization in 2016, has previously denied wrongdoing.

Even before the verdicts, the Swiss probe had been mired in setbacks. Michael Lauber, Switzerland’s former attorney general, was reprimanded for holding secret meetings with FIFA President Gianni Infantino during the investigation. Lauber denied lying about the meetings, but resigned from his post in July.

Nteris, a Greek businessman who was accused of bribing Valcke, was also acquitted.

Nteris didn’t appear for the trial because he was unwell, according to his lawyer Alec Reymond. At the outset of the trial, Reymond had called for the proceedings to be suspended because of the secret FIFA meetings.

BeIn Media’s Al-Khelaifi was cleared of convincing Valcke not to tell FIFA about favors he received. “Today’s verdict is a total vindication. It restores my faith in the rule of law,” Al-Khelaifi said in a statement issued through his lawyer.

Nteris faced an incitement charge as well as one for bribery for allegedly paying Valcke 1.25 million euros in three installments. In return, Valcke was alleged to have exploited his position between 2013 and 2015 to favor his preferred media partners for Italian and Greek broadcast rights for 12 years of FIFA tournaments.

Valcke said during the trial that the money was a loan because he was as much as $10 million in debt and couldn’t secure any more lending from his bank.

Valcke was accused of getting help from Al-Khelaifi to secure the 500,000-euro down payment on a villa in Sardinia, which the FIFA secretary then allegedly used for free for 18 months. Prosecutors alleged the assistance Al-Khelaifi offered was part of a quid pro quo given that BeIn Media was the sole bidder for the Middle Eastern media rights to the 2026 and 2030 World Cups.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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