(Updates with new quotes)
By Brian Homewood
BERN, Oct 25 (Reuters) - The chief executive of Qatar’s beIN media, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, said he had nothing to hide after being questioned by Swiss prosecutors on Wednesday as part of a criminal investigation into World Cup deals.
The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) said on Oct. 12 that it suspected that FIFA’s banned former Secretary General Jerome Valcke had accepted “undue advantages” from Al-Khelaifi — who is also president of French club Paris Saint Germain — in connection with the award of media rights for the 2026 and 2030 competitions.
Valcke, who was in charge of the day-to-day running of Swiss-based global soccer body FIFA, is also under investigation. Neither has been charged and both deny wrongdoing.
“I asked to come to Switzerland to give my explanations,” Al-Khelaifi told reporters in front of the OAG headquarters after being questioned for around eight hours.
“I have nothing to hide. I am available for the Swiss attorney general, if he wants to see me again. I came here in a relaxed frame of mind and I leave in a relaxed frame of mind.”
Before the interview began, OAG spokesman Andre Marty said that “the world of football will have to be patient as to the results of this first interrogation”.
Afterwards, he said “it would not be serious” to predict how long the investigation would take. “Such criminal proceedings take years, not just months. Usually such a proceeding might take three-to-five years,” he said.
The OAG has said that the proceedings were opened on suspicion of bribery of private individuals, fraud, criminal mismanagement and forgery of a document.
It is also investigating an unnamed suspect, described as “a businessman in the sports rights sector”.
FIFA has confirmed that agreements have been concluded to award “certain rights” to beIN for the 2026 and 2030 World Cups in 24 countries in Africa and the Middle East.
Valcke is serving a 10-year ban from soccer after he was found guilty by FIFA’s former ethics judge, Hans-Joachim Eckert, of misconduct over the sale of World Cup tickets, abuse of travel expenses, attempting to sell TV rights below their market value and destruction of evidence.
He has appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
FIFA has been trying to overhaul its operations in the wake of the worst crisis in its history, sparked in 2015 by the indictment in the United States of several dozen soccer officials on corruption-related charges. (Editing by Peter Graff, Neville Dalton)