Swiss prosecutors call for Al-Khelaifi, Valcke to face prison in beIN TV rights trial

In this file photo taken on September 14, 2020 The Swiss Federal Criminal Court is seen on the opening day of a corruption trial of PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi and FIFA ex-secretary general Jerome Valcke in Bellinzona, southern Switzerland. (AFP)
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Updated 22 September 2020

Swiss prosecutors call for Al-Khelaifi, Valcke to face prison in beIN TV rights trial

  • The prosecution called for a 28-month sentence for Al-Khelaifi, and three years for Valcke as their trial moved into its final days

LAUSANNE: Swiss prosecutors on Tuesday called for Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi and former FIFA number two Jerome Valcke to face prison for alleged corruption in the allocation of World Cup TV rights.
The prosecution called for a 28-month sentence for Al-Khelaifi, who is also president of beIN Media, and three years for Valcke as their trial moved into its final days, the Swiss agency Keystone ATS reported.
This is the first time prison sentences have been requested in a European court in trials relating to the multiple scandals in world football, although former officials from the Americas have received jail sentences in the United States.
It will be the first judgment handed down in Switzerland, the seat of most international sports organizations, in the 20 or so proceedings opened in the last five years involving FIFA.
The Swiss Federal Criminal Court of Bellinzona has been trying Valcke on two charges related to his quest for money to maintain what Federal Prosecutor Joel Pahud called a “spendthrift” lifestyle.
Al-Khelaifi is included in the first charge. The public prosecutor’s office said Valcke sought the Qatari’s help in the summer of 2003 to buy a luxury villa in Sardinia, at a time when beIN, a Qatari-owned broadcaster, was negotiating the extension of its media rights in North Africa and the Middle East for the 2026 and 2030 World Cups.
The prosecutor said Al-Khelaifi acquired the house for five million euros ($5.85 million), via a company that was transferred almost immediately to the brother of one of his close collaborators, before it was made available to Valcke.
The two men denied a “corrupt agreement” and said the deal was a “private” arrangement, unrelated to the contract concluded by beIN with FIFA in April 2014.
The defendants also argued the deal, which FIFA has never tried to undo, was “golden” and “sublime” since the $480 million dollars beIN paid for the two World Cups was 60% more than for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, when it faced no competition.
The prosecution said Valcke committed to “do what was in his power” to ensure beIN would win the contract and should have declared the Villa Bianca deal to his employers. They said he had been pressured by Al-Khaleifa to illegally damage FIFA’s interests.
Pahud also accused Al Khelaifi of “contempt for justice” because he did not cooperate with the investigation and denied buying the villa despite evidence of the purchase.
The defense argued that the trial was “muddied” by the revelation of informal meetings between former Swiss attorney general Michael Lauber and current FIFA president Gianni Infantino.
Lauber resigned from his post in July and both men are under investigation for suspected collusion.
Al-Khelaifi’s lawyers have told AFP that the charges against their client are “clearly artificial.”
The Swiss prosecutors had to drop a charge of corruption because of an out-of-court settlement in January between Al Khelaifi and FIFA, which then withdrew its complaint against him.
Valcke also stands accused of exploiting his position at FIFA to influence the awarding of media rights for Italy and Greece for World Cups and other tournaments between 2018 and 2030 “to favor media partners that he preferred” in exchange for payments from Greek businessman Dinos Deris, who has also been charged.
Pahud said he accepts that the 59-year-old Frenchman has paid a heavy price over the past five years.
Valcke, a former journalist who lives in Barcelona, “has suffered professionally in recent years. He has not found a job after FIFA,” Pahud said.
Valcke told the court that he had been unable to open a bank account in Europe since 2017, had to sell his yacht and jewelry and had his Porsche Cayenne stolen.
He said that attempts to make a new start had been “polluted” by interventions from FIFA.
The defense will present their final arguments on Wednesday and Thursday.


Publicis Groupe veteran Kamal Dimachkie leaves as new successor is named

Updated 20 October 2020

Publicis Groupe veteran Kamal Dimachkie leaves as new successor is named

  • Dimachkie’s career spans three decades of leadership and accomplishment in international and regional markets
  • Shoueiry founded the agency’s Social Content Lab and played a key role in cultivating digital design thinking across the region

RIYADH: Publicis Groupe MEA today announced the departure of Kamal Dimachkie, chief operating officer, Publicis Communications, UAE and Lower Gulf. Dimachkie is a senior executive who joined Leo Burnett in February 1985. The company has appointed Samer Shoueiry to assume the role in conjunction with his current responsibilities as chief digital officer, Publicis Communications, Middle East from Dec. 1. Dimachkie’s decision to leave comes after 33 years with the company. He will leave his current position on Dec. 31 and continue to act in a consultative capacity until June 2021 in order to ensure a smooth transition.

Dimachkie’s career spans three decades of leadership and accomplishment in international and regional markets including the US, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and the UAE.

Raja Trad, executive chairman at Publicis Groupe MEA said: “I respect Kamal’s decision. He has been a friend and a colleague for over three decades, and not just I but the entire Publicis Groupe family will miss him. His tenure at the Groupe has been characterized by a clear commitment to values that are central to our philosophy. Kamal’s adept leadership propelled the agency to new heights — we won more than 250 accolades and added numerous international and local clients to our roster. I want to thank him for his immeasurable contribution to the Groupe and wish him all the best for his professional future.”

Dimachkie added: “Leo Burnett and Publicis Groupe have been my life for the past 33 years, and I am proud to have been a part of a glorious journey during which I have had the opportunity to serve the company in different roles in six countries, to have contributed to numerous clients and raised the bar internally and within the industry. Part of this has been the joy of working with a wonderful team and leadership, whom I have partnered with, learnt from and shall forever call my friends and brothers in arms. I am grateful to have lived the glory days of advertising with one of the best agencies in the world and to have worked with some of the most inspiring and creative people. I look forward to working with Samer on the upcoming transition and wish him success in his new role.”

Shoueiry, who will take on Dimachkie’s role, has over 21 years of experience across business, design and innovation. He has consistently delivered a robust performance in Publicis’ Experience Design and Experience Strategy, founded the agency’s Social Content Lab and played a key role in cultivating digital design thinking across the region.

Commenting on his appointment, Trad said: “Samer has a record of leadership and value creation, deep experience in generating groundbreaking brand experiences, as well as a focus on strategic design, innovation excellence and a strong technological footing. I look forward to continuing to work closely with him to drive our digital transformation in the region and support the spread of innovation through investments in our people, technology, platforms and tools. Together, we will ensure that we continue to move our business forward in the Connected Age through a data-led, digital-first approach.”

Shoueiry further added: “Kamal has built a strong foundation for future growth, including strengthening our team and expanding our scope of work. The current climate has accelerated digital transformation globally, and we are looking at a future where online and offline coexist to augment consumer experience in an interconnected brand universe. E-commerce is a necessity, digital equities are your flagship stores, search and social your new outdoor. With this new beginning, I will focus on further strengthening our creative strategy-to-results development to offer the best consumer-centric experiences and build brand value.”