30th October 2020

Former FIFA Secretary General handed suspended prison term

Jérôme Valcke, the former Secretary General of FIFA, has been sentenced to a 120 day suspended prison term after the Swiss Federal Criminal Court today found him guilty of document forgery. He was also ordered to reimburse FIFA €1.75 million, which included a €500,000 down payment on a property in Sardinia, and pay CHF80,000 (€75,000) in legal fees. Charges relating to mismanagement and passive bribery were dismissed.

The Court also dismissed mismanagement and passive bribery charges against Nasser Al-Khelaifi (ناصر بن غانم الخليفي), Chairman of beIN, Qatar Sports Investments (QSI), President of Paris Saint Germain and a member of UEFA’s Executive Committee. It also dismissed the same charges against Greek businessman Constantinos ‘Dinos’ Deris (Ντίνος Ντέρης). 

However, the Court was only able to consider bribery charges relating to deals between Valcke and Deris. This is because under Swiss legislation, a complaint must be made by a wronged party for bribery charges to be considered. FIFA withdrew part of its complaint after coming to an ‘unspecified amicable agreement’ with Al-Khelaifi, the Swiss Office of the Attorney General (OAG) confirmed in January.

‘In February 2014, [Valcke] received a down payment of around €500,000 that he had made to a third party in 2013 for the purchase of a luxury property in Sardinia’, read a statement from the Swiss Federal Criminal Court. ‘This was after the property had been acquired by [Al-Khelaifi] instead of himself on 31 December 2013 through a company specifically set up for this purpose in Qatar.

‘[Valcke] was then given the opportunity to use this property without having to pay rent, but against payment of certain maintenance costs. In return, [Valcke] pledged to [Al-Khelaifi] to use his discretion as Secretary General of FIFA to validate [beIN’s] candidacy for the conclusion of a licence agreement on media rights fo the North Africa and Middle East region [for the 2026 and 2030 World Cups], as well as additional events in the same period. This agreement was ratified by [FIFA] on 29 April 2014.

‘Furthermore, Valcke made use of his position as Secretary General of [FIFA] to conclude a sales representation contract with the agency [TAF Sports Marketing] on media rights for Italy and Greece in the context of the [FIFA] World Cup in 2026 and 2030, and to promote and support [its bid] for the Confederation Cups in the same period. On 19 March 2015, [FIFA] approved [Valcke’s] proposal to conclude these contracts. In return, [Valcke] accepted three transfers from [Deris] between November 2013 and July 2014 for a total of €1.25 million.’

These three transfers were incorrectly described as a loan, said the Court. It therefore found Valcke guilty of ‘multiple forgery’.

The reason that the Court dismissed the mismanagement charges against Valcke was because it found that the concluded contracts were to the financial benefit of FIFA, rather than to its detriment. The court complained that its scope to consider ‘active and passive bribery’ charges against Valcke was limited due to FIFA’s withdrawal of its complaint alleging bribery involving Al-Khelaifi and Valcke in connection with the award of media rights to the 2026 and 2030 World Cups. 

As such, the Court could only consider whether Valcke had interfered with competition by promising the TV sales contracts in Greece and Italy for the 2026 and 2030 World Cups to TAF Sports Marketing and another agency. It found that since the TV sales contract obliged the two agencies to receive offers from broadcasters and support FIFA in attaining the highest bid, competition hadn’t been distorted, as FIFA was ultimately responsible for deciding which broadcaster to appoint.

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