(Reuters) - The chairman of Qatar-based media group BeIN Sports and president of French soccer club Paris St Germain, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, was cleared in a case over the awarding of television rights for the World Cup, the Swiss Federal Criminal Court said on Friday.
Al-Khelaifi had been accused of inciting former FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke to commit aggravated criminal mismanagement. The trial was not connected to Al-Khelaifi's role at Paris St Germain.
Valcke was cleared of accepting bribes and criminal mismanagement but was given a suspended fine of 24,000 Swiss francs ($26,500) for the lesser offence of falsification of documents. The Frenchman was also ordered to pay FIFA around 1.65 million euros in restitution.
Valcke, who has denied wrongdoing, was secretary general of world soccer’s ruling body for eight years until 2015. His lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Swiss attorney general’s office had alleged that between 2013 and 2015 Valcke exploited his FIFA role to influence the award of media rights for various World Cup and Confederations Cup tournaments “to favour media partners that he preferred”.
It said Valcke also had the exclusive use of a villa belonging to Al-Khelaifi in Sardinia for 18 months, without having to pay a rent estimated at 900,000-1.8 million euros ($1.06-$2.13 million).
Valcke's conviction was the first for Swiss prosecutors since they began investigating corruption surrounding FIFA in 2015, when the global soccer body became embroiled in the biggest scandal in its history.
Al-Khelaifi also sits on the executive committee of European soccer body UEFA.
"After a relentless four-year campaign against me that ignored the basic facts and the law at every turn – I have finally, fully and completely cleared my name. Today’s verdict is a total vindication," Al-Khelaifi said in a statement issued by his lawyer.
(Reporting by Michael Shields; Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Hugh Lawson)