PSG boss Al Khelaifi probed in athletics corruption case

Sajith B Warrier

Bengaluru/Doha, March 25: A judicial source has confirmed that Paris Saint-Germain football club's wealthy Qatari owner Nasser Al Khelaifi was questioned in France in connection with a corruption probe over the awarding of the World Athletics Championships to Doha.

The source said Al Khelaifi was questioned by investigating magistrates who termed him a "person of interest" as they examine a case which also looks at the circumstances in which the Olympic Games were awarded to Rio de Janeiro for 2016 and Tokyo for 2020.

Al Khelaifi, who also heads the Doha-based beIn Sports Channel and the Qatar Tennis Federation, denied the corruption charges though, saying he only learned recently about it.

The Qatari's lawyer Francis Szpiner did not respond though to request for comment friom international news agencies.

The judges were looking specifically at two payments of $3.5m in 2011 by Oryx Qatar Sports Investment, a company jointly owned by Al Khelaifi and his brother Khalid, to a sports marketing firm run by Papa Massata Diack.

His father Lamine Diack was formerly president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and a member of the International Olympic Committee.

At the time, Qatar was seeking to host the 2017 IAAF World Championships and the two payments were made shortly before it voted. The event was awarded to London but, later in 2014, Doha was awarded the 2019 edition which start on September 28.

These payments were outlined in a memorandum of understanding, in which Oryx undertook to purchase sponsorship and TV rights for $32.6m, provided Doha obtained the 2017 World Championships.

The judges, who are investigating the Diack case, placed Al Khelaifi under the intermediate status of "assisted witness", meaning that he is not being examined at this stage, but remains a person of interest in the investigation.

Last week, there was breather for Al Khelaifi and the Ligue 1 champions as the Court of Arbitration in Sport backed their appeal against the governing body of UEFA's attempt to reopen an investigation into the club for financial wrongdoing.

However, there seems to be no end for Al Khelaifi's trouble as a probe is on in Switzerland against him into "private corruption", concerning the attribution of the broadcasting rights to two FIFA World Cups.

(With inputs from Agencies)

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