23rd November 2017

FIFAGate Trial: Court told how Zurich arrests halted Qatari bid for scandal-hit agency

The FIFAGate trial in New York has heard about the collapse of the proposed purchase of a company at the heart of bribery allegations by a Qatari investment arm after the Zurich hotel swoop in 2015. A further connection between Qatar and the football bosses accused of corruption emerged on a further day of evidence in the trial of Jose Marin (Brazil), Manuel Burga (Peru) and Juan Angel Napout (Paraguay) who all deny charges of fraud and money-laundering.

The link between Argentinian agency Full Play and Qatar Sports Investments, headed by Paris Saint-Germain Chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi, was raised by prosecution witness Santiago Pena, a former executive of the Buenos Aires company. Pena had told the court on Monday of how he kept a record of bribes paid to heads of the South American football federations. In his latest evidence he described how he had also been involved in secret negotiations called the “New York project”.

This was the code name given to the proposed deal because the price for 51% of Full Play was US$212 million — and 212 is a New York City telephone area code. Pena said the talks with Al-Khelaifi and QSI ended abruptly after seven football bosses were detained in Zurich on the eve of FIFA Congress and United States investigators revealed details of their investigation into football corruption.

Two of the men named by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) were the Full Play bosses, father and son Hugo and Mariano Jinkis. Their extradition from Argentina has been sought, without success so far, to answer charges in the US of racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy.

Al-Khelaifi is a criminal suspect in Switzerland for bribery linked to Qatar-owned beIN Sports’ broadcast agreements with FIFA for 2026 and 2030 World Cup rights in the Middle East and North Africa. He has denied wrongdoing. Pena was followed in giving evidence by technical experts in banking business from the Bank of America and Hilton Worldwide Holdings.

• This article was originally published on Keir Radnedge’s internet site on 21 November 2017. You can access the original by clicking here.

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