BELLINZONA, Switzerland (AP) — Qatari soccer executive Nasser al-Khelaifi and former FIFA official Jérôme Valcke spent their first day at federal criminal court in Switzerland on Monday for a corruption trial expected to last two weeks.
Al-Khelaifi, the president of Paris Saint-Germain and chairman of Doha-based broadcaster beIN Media Group, and Valcke came to court separately and did speak publicly.
A third defendant, Greek marketing agency executive Dinos Deris, whose name is also spelled Konstantinos Nteris, did not attend the opening of the trial citing medical reasons.
The trial opened with procedural arguments and the panel of three federal judges decided to go ahead with Deris absent. He and Valcke face the most serious charge of bribery.
Defense lawyers are expected to raise more procedural issues on Tuesday.
All three defendants deny wrongdoing. A verdict is expected in late October.
Al-Khelaifi faces a lesser charge of inciting Valcke when he was FIFA secretary general to commit “aggravated criminal mismanagement.”
During a formal investigation since 2017, Swiss prosecutors questioned al-Khelaifi on suspicion of bribing Valcke with use of a luxury villa in Sardinia in 2014 and 2015.
Around that time, FIFA renewed beIN’s World Cup broadcast rights in the Middle East and north Africa for the 2026 and 2030 tournaments without rival bids. The deal was judged within the industry as good for FIFA with beIN paying above the then-market value.
FIFA withdrew its criminal complaint of possible bribery when it reached a financial settlement with al-Khelaifi before prosecutors published indictments in February.
The bribery charges for Valcke and Deris are a separate matter not involving beIN or al-Khelaifi.
Prosecutors say Valcke took three kickbacks totaling 1.25 million euros ($1.48 million) to steer World Cup rights toward favored broadcasters in Italy and Greece. He is also charged with falsifying documents by booking the payments to his private company as loans.
Valcke was banned from working in soccer by the FIFA ethics committee in 2016 for conduct separate from the charges he now faces.
Al-Khelaifi, a minister in Qatar’s government, has become more influential in world soccer since the Swiss criminal proceeding against him was revealed three years ago.
He is now a member of the UEFA executive committee, which will meet next week in Budapest, Hungary, amid the trial.
More procedural arguments are due on Tuesday about the integrity of the prosecution office and its case.
Since the indictments were published, Swiss attorney general Michael Lauber was disciplined then resigned after an internal investigation into undeclared meetings he had with current FIFA president Gianni Infantino.
A special prosecutor was appointed in June and opened a criminal proceeding against Infantino for suspected misconduct including incitement to abuse of public office. The FIFA leader has called the investigation absurd.
Any delay to the trial because of the ongoing Lauber-Infantino process could bring into play a statute of limitation on some evidence that times out in November.
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