Khulaifi trial sheds light on Qatari administration’s corruption
The trial of Nasser Al-Khulaifi, head of the Qatari company beIN Sports and president of the French club Paris Saint Germain, constitutes an important episode in a long series of Qatari corruption within the International Football Association (FIFA) and how the monopolist company has manipulated the most important sporting events in global broadcasting shares.
On Monday, September 14, the Swiss Federal Court (headquarters of FIFA) began the trial of Khulaifi and former FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke on several charges related to financial corruption and receiving bribes in exchange for granting additional privileges in favor of beIN Sports.
On Tuesday, September 15, the court continued the second session of the trial. Khulaifi is accused of granting Valcke the right to free use of a villa in the Porto Servo resort in Serdina, Italy during a period of up to two years between 2014 and 2015. The authorities estimated the cost at $1.8 million, paid by a FIFA official in exchange for granting beIN Sports the rights to broadcast the FIFA World Cup matches scheduled for 2026 and 2030.
This case represents a major threat to the reputation of the Qatari sports file, especially months before the start of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which the Gulf emirate will host on its soil amid calls for an investigation into the fairness of the organization of the tournament. Will the Khulaifi trial lead to the opening of similar corruption cases in this regard?
The organization of the World Cup in Qatar is surrounded by suspicions that escalate from time to time. On April 7, accusations were renewed regarding this matter, with an American prosecutor accusing some former FIFA officials of taking bribes to grant Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022 the rights to organize the World Cup.
The public prosecutor stated that the bribes were paid to boost votes in favor of Russia and Qatar during the 2010 session in Zurich. These allegations represent the first time that the accusations regarding the World Cup came out from a judicial authority and not investigative reports or pressure circles.
The accusations include bribes for the vote of Nicolas Leoz, the former president of the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL), who died last year, and investigations are still ongoing regarding the bribes of the former FIFA member Ricardo Teixeira, of Brazilian origin. It should be noted that Teixeira had a ban issued against from participation in any football activities for life by FIFA due to receiving bribes for marketing and broadcasting the championships during the years 2006 to 2012.
Banking violations and terrorist financing
Financial scandals and administrative corruption related to the Qatari company parallels other corruption cases related to Qatar’s banking contributions in Europe and the suspicious accusations of financing terrorism, which affects the reputation of the Qatari leadership. The corruption of the World Cup vote or sports broadcast bribes are not related only to Khulaifi, but represent the state’s approach to dealing with international interests. In August 2019, the British authorities decided to open investigations into the management of Qatar’s Al-Rayan Bank, of which the Qatar Investment Authority owns 30%, over money laundering operations used to finance terrorist associations. Some accounts in Al-Rayan belong to organizations listed on the US terrorism list, as well as a number of preachers known for their extremist rhetoric.