Indictment of Qatari media CEO adds new twist to corruption scandal

Central to the case are two bank transfers allegedly sent from Qatari investors to a sports company in Senegal.
Thursday 23/05/2019
A 2015 file picture shows beIN CEO and head of TV channel beIN Sports France Yousef al-Obaidly attending a game at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris. (AFP)
Fresh accusations. A 2015 file picture shows beIN CEO and head of TV channel beIN Sports France Yousef al-Obaidly attending a game at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris. (AFP)

DUBAI - The chief executive officer of Qatari television network beIN, a premier sports broadcaster in 43 countries, has been indicted in France on "active corruption” charges.

Media reports May 22 said the indictment of Yousef al-Obaidly, beIN CEO and head of TV channel beIN Sports France, was filed after an investigation initiated by the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office into the bidding process for Qatar’s 2019 track world championships, a judicial official said.

Former International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) President Lamine Diack also faces charges of "passive corruption" in the case, French newspaper Le Monde reported.

The right-hand man of Paris Saint-Germain President and beIN Chairman Nasser al-Khelaifi, Obaidly is also a board member of the French football club. In 2014, Khelaifi promoted Obaidly to head the Qatari sports channel.

Obaidly has been under investigation in France over alleged corruption in the bidding process for this year’s world athletics championships. He denies any wrongdoing.

Central to the case are two bank transfers, according to Le Monde, allegedly sent from Qatari investors to a sports company in Senegal owned by Diack’s son days before the vote for the 2017 track world championships.

Qatar lost that bid to London but was awarded the hosting rights for the 2019 event, scheduled for September 28-October 6 at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha. Diack is suspected of favouring Qatar’s bid in exchange for the money sent to his son’s company.

It would not be the first time Diack and his son have been implicated in questionable dealings. Papa Massata Diack, Lamine Diack’s son and a former marketing consultant at IAAF, was banned from the group because of extortion charges. France has issued a wanted notice for him via Interpol.

Brazilian and French authorities are investigating whether the Diacks arranged bribes to help Rio de Janeiro earn hosting rights for the 2016 Olympic Games. Lamine Diack, who ran the IAAF from 1999-2015, has also been accused of covering up failed Russian doping tests.

Obaidly’s indictment adds to series of scandals Qatar has faced since being awarded the rights to the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

In March, former FIFA President Sepp Blatter alleged that former French President Nicolas Sarkozy had been instrumental to helping Qatar win hosting rights to the football competition. Blatter said Sarkozy told former UEFA President Michel Platini and his supporters to vote for Qatar’s bid.

“These four votes tipped the balance in favour of Qatar and against the USA,” Blatter said. “This situation sparked attacks from the losing parties on FIFA and me personally from defeated England on Russia for the 2018 World Cup and from the USA, [which] lost to Qatar.”

London’s Sunday Times published leaked documents revealing Doha had secretly offered FIFA $400 million in a last-minute attempt to secure hosting rights. The documents indicated that executives from Qatar’s Al Jazeera network, owned by then Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad al-Thani, signed a broadcast rights contract making the offer as bidding campaigns to host the World Cup were closing, the report said.

The contract included a clause that FIFA would receive an additional $100 million if Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup hosting duties.

The Sunday Times added that since Sheikh Hamad was the driving force for the bid, the deal represented a conflict of interest for FIFA and violated its rules, which stipulate that bidding countries are barred from offering financial incentives to FIFA in connection with votes for hosting rights.

FIFA investigators have examined the bidding rights process for the 2022 tournament and considered withdrawing Qatar’s bid. The body decided not to strip Qatar of hosting duties a few weeks after the emirate’s state broadcaster offered FIFA a second contract, worth almost $500 billion, for broadcast rights to the 2026 and 2030 World Cup events.