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Men accused of bribes negotiated with Qataris, New York court told

Nasser Al-Khelaifi at the PSG training ground. (AP)
NEW YORK: A sports marketing company whose owners have been charged with bribing top soccer officials tried to negotiate a sale to an entity associated with Paris Saint-Germain team president Nasser Al-Khelaifi, a witness testified Tuesday in federal court.
As the second week of testimony finished in the trial of three former presidents of South American governing bodies, the son of the ex-head of Ecuador’s soccer federation gave an emotional account of how he laundered $2.8 million for his father, who is under house arrest in Quito after receiving a 10-year sentence for corruption.
“This is the hardest moment of my life,” said Jose Luis Chiriboga, a soccer agent, recalling how his father, Luis, told him: “Sorry, son, I destroyed your life.”
Santiago Pena, a former executive of the Argentina-based Full Play Group, testified that he spent a lengthy period of time on secret negotiations called the “New York project,” given the name because the deal for 51 percent of Full Play was valued at $212 million, and 212 is a New York City telephone area code.
Pena said the talks with Al-Khelaifi and the sovereign wealth fund Qatar Sports Investments ended on May 27, 2015, when US prosecutors unsealed indictments against Full Play’s controlling principals, the father and son Hugo and Mariano Jinkis, for racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy. They were charged for alleged payments to soccer officials in the Americas for broadcast and marketing contracts.
Al-Khelaifi and Qatar Sports would have had the right to buy an additional 19 percent at a later date, Pena said.
Al-Khelaifi is a criminal suspect in Switzerland for bribery linked to Qatar-owned BeIN Sports’ broadcast agreements with FIFA for 2026 and 2030 World Cup rights in the Middle East and North Africa. He met on Oct. 25 with Swiss prosecutors in Bern.
Pena said that only he, Hugo and Mariano Jinkis, and Full Play accountant Sergio Rabinovich were aware of the negotiations. Pena testified that after the indictments were made public, he deleted emails discussing the potential sale.
“I did it in order to protect the company,” he said.
Hugo and Mariano Jinkis have not been extradited to the US, and Pena said they remain in Argentina. Pena reached an agreement this year with US prosecutors to testify in exchange for not being charged.
“I always considered myself a completely small fish in this issue,” he said.
QSI and the BeIN media group said in a statement that “Qatar regularly looks at investment with their funds. This investment was proposed and considered, after review it was decided not to pursue. This happens very often.”