BeIN media group CEO charged in corruption probe in France

Updated: May 22, 2019, 4:03 PM ET
Associated Press

PARIS -- The chief executive officer of media group beIN was handed preliminary charges of corruption as part of an investigation into the bidding process for the 2017 and 2019 track world championships, a judicial official said Wednesday.

The official said Yousef Al-Obaidly was indicted on March 28 and also said former IAAF president Lamine Diack was handed preliminary charges of "passive corruption" in the same case.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the case is ongoing

A close ally of Paris Saint-Germain president and beIN chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi, Al-Obaidly is also a board member of the French soccer club. He denies any wrongdoing.

"I voluntarily attended an appointed meeting as part of a preliminary investigation," Al-Obaidly said in a statement. "The allegations raised are not only utterly baseless and unsubstantiated, but they have been -- quite remarkably -- leaked to the media. For the avoidance of any doubt whatsoever, the allegations are completely and categorically denied and will be vehemently challenged using the full force of the law."

In November 2016, Le Monde newspaper obtained documents showing that a former IAAF official received two payments totaling about $3.5 million from Qatari investors before the vote for the 2017 track world championships.

Qatar eventually lost to London but was later awarded the 2019 worlds. The championships will be held in Doha from Sept. 27-Oct. 6.

The two payments from Oryx Qatar Sports Investments, an investment fund linked to the Qatari government, were made to Pamodzi Sports Marketing in October and November 2011, days before the vote.

According to Al-Obaidly's camp, the payments made by Oryx to the IAAF's appointed agent were transparent and part of the normal bidding process. Set up to handle the sponsorship and rights for the Qatar's bid, Oryx accepted to pay $32.5 million for the event's commercial rights, including the $3.5 million paid to Pamodzi as a non-refundable deposit. The full amount would have been paid only if Qatar's bid had been successful.

"The judge refuses to consider that it could be a commercial practice," Al-Obaidly's lawyer, Jean-Didier Belot, told The Associated Press. "It's not unusual to make an upfront payment as part of a bid. He believes it was corruption because the money was non repayable. No, it was not corruption, but a risk we evaluated."

Pamodzi was founded by one of Diack's sons, Papa Massata Diack. A former marketing consultant at the IAAF, he has been banned for allegations of extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Russian marathon runner to avoid a doping ban before the 2012 Olympics. France has issued a wanted notice for him via Interpol.

According to Le Monde, Lamine Diack is suspected of favoring the Qatari bid in exchange of money transferred to his son's company.

In another case, Brazilian and French authorities are trying to find out whether Lamine Diack and his son played a role in arranging alleged bribes to help Rio de Janeiro earn the hosting rights of the 2016 Olympics. Diack, who ran the IAAF from 1999-2015, has also been accused of covering up failed Russian doping tests in exchange for money.

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Copyright 2019 by The Associated Press

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index

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