PARIS (Reuters) – The Qatari president of French soccer champions Paris St Germain, Nasser al-Khelaifi, is under formal investigation in France for alleged corruption, a French judicial source said on Thursday.
A second source said Khelaifi and a close associate were questioned by investigators in March in relation to the bidding process for the 2017 athletics world championships. Qatar was unsuccessful in its bid and the event was awarded to London.
The soccer club did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Reuters was not immediately able to reach Khelaifi’s representatives in Qatar.
The judge’s decision means Khelaifi is now formally treated as a suspect and takes the legal process one step closer to trial. Under French law, however, a suspect is not formally charged with a crime unless he is sent to trial.
The move by a investigative judge is a demonstration of the broadening scope of a French investigation into the web of corruption once rife in world athletics, including bribes to cover up athletes’ positive drugs tests and hosting rights.
French prosecutors this week recommended that Lamine Diack, the Senegalese former head of the IAAF, and his son stand trial for a host of suspected illicit practices, committed over a number of years with the active involvement of athletes and their federations.
Lamine and his son have consistently denied wrongdoing. A lawyer representing Diack senior declined to comment above the move. Son Papa Massata Diack did not respond to requests for comment.
The investigative judges presiding over the Diack case accuse the Senegalese of favouring Qatar’s bid for the 2017 world championship in return for a kick-back, sources said.
(Reporting by Emmanuel Jarry; Additional reporting by Eric Knecht in Doha; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Alison Williams)