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FRANCE

PSG chief Al-Khelaifi accused of corruption for €3.1m bribe

PSG chief Al-Khelaifi accused of corruption for €3.1m bribe

The judge suspects that the president of the French club paid over three million euros to have the 2017 World Athletics tournament in Doha.

French club Paris Saint-Germain cannot find a moment's peace, it would seem. With their star players Kylian Mbappé and Neymar Jr making headlines on a daily basis regarding potential moves to the likes of Real Madrid, now their president Nasser Al-Khelaifi has been accused of corruption by the Paris court. The case against him is that he attempted to pay for the 2017 World Athletics Championships to be held in Doha rather than London, the latter being where they were finally disputed.

Al-Khelaifi corruption case

According to French newspaper Le Parisien, Renaud Van Ruymbeke, the investigating judge, has accused Al-Khelaifi of 'active bribery' on the grounds that he authorized a payment of 3.5 million dollars (3.1 million euros) to Lamine Diack, former president of the International Athletics Federation, for the 2017 World Championships to be held in Doha.

The PSG president had already appeared voluntarily before the judge on 20 March as part of this investigation, one which involved a Qatari company (Oryx QSI) founded and managed by his brother Khaled, and a Senegalese company (Pamodzi Sports consulting) owned by Papa Massata Diack, son of Lamine Diack.

As part of the doping investigation of Russian athletes and their financial ramifications, Judge Van Ruymbeke discovered two bank transfers totaling 3.5 million dollars at the end of 2011 made by ORYX to Pamodzi. According to the investigating judge, such transfers were to facilitate the awarding of the 2017 World Athletics Championships to the Doha candidacy. In the end, and by a majority of 16 votes to 10, the IAAF granted the competition to the capital of the UK, although the 2019 edition will take place in Doha.

"Totally inaccurate" and "a misunderstanding"

According to Al-Khelaifi's lawyer, Francis Szpiner, the accusation is "totally inaccurate" and the charges against his client "are not based on any concrete evidence". Szpiner states that "the name of Nasser Al-Khelaifi does not appear in any of the documents in the archive" and that the case is based on "a misunderstanding".

"You should know that the initial hearing of Nasser Al-Khelaifi was only triggered by a regrettable misunderstanding on the part of the examining magistrate," he claimed, "who mistook Oryx QSI, a purely private company run by his brother, and QSI, a sovereign fund."

The lawyer states that in 2011, at the time the facts were investigated, Al-Khelaifi had no connection with Oryx QSI, a company in which he became a shareholder between 2013 and 2016.

"Nasser has never been operationally involved in the bid for the World Athletics Championships for the city of Doha during the period in question. He is neither a shareholder nor an Oryx official and, therefore, he cannot participate in the commercial relationship between these two exclusively private companies," insisted Szpiner.