Geneva, Paris- The Paris offices of BeIN Sports were searched on Thursday as part of a criminal probe against former FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke and Qatar’s BeIN Media Chief Executive Nasser al-Khelaifi, French authorities said.
Meanwhile, another inspection campaigns were launched in Greece, Italy, and Spain in the framework of the Swiss criminal investigation on the crime of bribing Valcke to buy TV rights to World Cup tournaments.
The probe, which is the latest in a series of corruption scandals involving FIFA and World Football in the last two years, included searches in several places, including the Parisian offices of the Qatari network, whose chairman also chairs the French Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) club.
Swiss Attorney General's Office (OAG) announced that they have opened criminal proceedings Khelaifi and Valcke against the backdrop of awarding of World Cup media rights for the 2026 and 2030 tournaments.
The proceedings relate to an ongoing OAG investigation into Valcke that began in March 2016 and was opened on "suspicion of various acts of criminal mismanagement."
Findings obtained in that process have led to a separate line of inquiry involving PSG President Khelaifi.
The OAG stressed "no one has been on remand" and the presumption of innocence applies.”
The OAG said it had also opened a new criminal proceeding against Valcke and an unnamed figure in the sports rights business, who is accused of having bribed Valcke in connection with the award of media rights for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, 2022 in Qatar and the 2026 and 2030 tournaments.
Khelaifi, Valcke and the unnamed businessman are collectively suspected of bribery, fraud, criminal mismanagement and forgery of a document, in a criminal proceeding – effectively an investigation rather than charges – ongoing since 20 March this year.
Legal authorities in France, Greece, Italy, and Spain cooperated with this area of the Swiss criminal investigation and “properties were searched in various locations”.
Valcke - who was interviewed on Thursday - is in the process of appealing against his 10-year ban from football at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The Frenchman was found guilty of a series of breaches of FIFA's code of ethics and was sacked in January 2016, though he has always denied any wrongdoing.