P.S.G.’s Nasser al-Khelaifi Accused of Bribing Ex-FIFA Chief Valcke

LONDON — Nasser al-Khelaifi, a Qatari businessman who has become one of the most prominent figures in soccer, was accused by the Swiss authorities on Thursday of bribing the former FIFA general secretary Jérôme Valcke in return for lucrative World Cup soccer broadcast contracts.

Khelaifi, a leading figure in Qatar’s multibillion-dollar push into global sports, is the chairman of the Paris St.-Germain soccer team and the chief executive of the beIN Media Group, a Doha-based television network that the Swiss accuse of bribing Valcke, who is currently serving a 10-year ban from world soccer.

In its statement, the Swiss attorney general’s office said it had opened a case in March against Khelaifi, Valcke and an unidentified businessman on suspicion of bribery, fraud and criminal mismanagement.

“It is suspected that Jérôme Valcke accepted undue advantages from a businessman in the sports rights sector in connection with the award of media rights for certain countries at the FIFA World Cups in 2018, 2022, 2026 and 2030 and from Nasser al-Khelaifi in connection with the award of media rights for certain countries at the FIFA World Cups in 2026 and 2030,” the statement said.

Properties were searched in various locations and authorities in Greece, Italy and Spain are cooperating with the investigation. Investigators from France’s financial crimes unit said they searched beIn’s offices in Paris, where Khelaifi is usually based. He was out of the country and has apparently not been questioned in relation to the allegations.

BeIn, which has committed billions of dollars to acquiring sports rights in recent years, said it “refutes all accusations.”

“The company will fully comply with authorities and is confident as to the future developments of the investigation,” it said in a statement.

Valcke, who was questioned as a suspect in the case on Thursday, did not respond to messages seeking comment. He also has been under investigation by the Swiss since March 2016 on “suspicion of various acts of criminal mismanagement.”

The investigation of Valcke and Khelaifi is only the latest blow to world soccer, an industry that has been in the grip of a crisis since United States authorities in May 2015 announced a wide-ranging indictment that charged some of the sport’s biggest power brokers with involvement in a corruption scheme that dated back more than two decades.

Valcke has not been charged in the United States case, though he was removed from office along with his longtime boss Sepp Blatter, the former FIFA president, and dozens of other top officials.

FIFA released a statement that said the organization “fully supports the investigation conducted by the Swiss Office of the Attorney General as well as the other involved authorities that has become public today.”

“FIFA has constituted itself as a damaged party in this investigation, in line with the applicable provisions of Swiss procedural law,” the statement said. “No further comments can be made by FIFA at this stage in view of the fact that the investigation by the authorities is ongoing.”

Switzerland’s attorney general is investigating at least 180 reports of suspected money laundering in connection with 25 continuing soccer-related investigations that have begun since the United States indictments became public.

Television contracts, bribes and kickbacks, are at the center of the United States investigation. The Brazilian television executive Jose Hawilla has admitted to authorities that he paid millions of dollars in bribes to soccer leaders across the Americas to secure rights to major events, including South America’s biggest club and national team tournaments.

Valcke, before he left FIFA, also helped quietly broker a no-bid agreement to award the American rights to the 2026 World Cup to Fox Sports. While rivals were furious when that deal became public, neither Valcke nor Fox Sports has been accused of wrongdoing.

Much of the crisis can be linked to the controversial decision in 2010 by FIFA’s governing executive committee to pick Russia and Qatar as hosts of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups after a bidding race that was troubled by accusations of corruption.

Qatar, a tiny desert-state without a discernible soccer culture, but home to the world’s third-largest natural gas reserves, defeated a bid from the United States in a final round of voting. Several of the men who took part in that vote have either been charged or remain under investigation by the authorities in the United States, Switzerland and France.

Long under the shadow of its larger Gulf neighbors, Qatar hopes to use the World Cup — the world’s most-watched sporting event — to burnish its place as a global leader. But its victory in the bidding has instead brought a deluge of negative publicity, from allegations of corrupting the voting process, which it has strenuously denied, to its treatment of foreign workers hired to complete a projected $200 billion overhaul of the country in time for the event.

Khelaifi becomes the first Qatari to face formal bribery allegations related to the tournament, and the Swiss attorney general’s statement is the first time details of beIN Group’s agreement to broadcast the 2026 and 2030 World Cups have been revealed. FIFA later on Thursday confirmed the contract. It announced in January 2011, about a month after Qatar was awarded 2022 hosting rights, that Al Jazeera Sport, the name beIN used previously, had been handed rights to broadcast that event and the 2018 World Cup in Russia across 23 territories and countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

Khelaifi, a close friend and occasional tennis partner of Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, has grown in stature along with his country’s sporting ambitions. As chairman of the Paris St.-Germain soccer team, Khelaifi sent shock waves through the soccer industry over the summer by approving the signing of Brazil’s Neymar from Barcelona for 222 million euros (about $263 million), a fee that shattered the record amount paid for a transfer.

P.S.G. followed that by agreeing to a fee of as much as 180 million euros ($213 million) to secure the rights to Monaco’s teenage star Kylian Mbappé, an amount that, like Neymar’s fee, was more than double the previous record for a player.

Those signings have set P.S.G. on a collision course with the European soccer body UEFA, which has insisted it will punish clubs that breach its cost control regulations.

Valcke was questioned a day after he traveled to a hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland to appeal his 10-year ban from soccer. That penalty was handed down by FIFA for claims of financial wrongdoing and other violations of its ethics code, including the excessive use of private jets.

“I tried to show that I never acted against the interests of FIFA, that I always did my job in the best possible manner,” Valcke told reporters after the hearing.

Valcke’s fall from grace has been precipitous. As FIFA’s No. 2 official, and Blatter’s chief lieutenant, he was responsible for all of FIFA’s business affairs and was the key figure in charge of the World Cups, the quadrennial event that is worth more than $5 billion to FIFA.

He was removed by FIFA after allegations emerged of irregular World Cup ticket and broadcast rights sales. Those cases became public after Swiss and United States prosecutors seized massive amounts of records and computer data from FIFA’s steel-and-glass headquarters on a hilltop high above Zurich.

Valcke also faces a separate FIFA ethics investigation over contract bonuses worth millions that were paid to top officials of the organization during his tenure.