FIFA’s former No. 2 caught up in scandal had $11 million debt
17 Sep 2020

A former FIFA official accused of accepting nearly $1.5 million in bribes told the Greek businessman accused of paying him the cash to delete most of their correspondence.

Jerome Valcke, FIFA’s former secretary general, sent the message to Dinos Deris in October 2016, six months before Swiss federal prosecutors opened a criminal investigation against the pair and a third businessman in March 2017.

“Dinos, I think you should delete all correspondence between us except the one related to FIBA or SportUnited but anything else, just trash,” Valcke wrote in an email presented as evidence on Wednesday at Switzerland’s Federal Criminal Court. SportUnited is Valcke’s company, which had consulting and advisory contracts with organizations including FIBA, the International Basketball Federation.

“I am a bit paranoiac these last months,” Valcke said in an separate email sent a minute later.

Asked about that during cross-examination on his second day of testimony, Valcke said he didn’t have anything to reproach himself about.

“I only wanted to make sure that those around me” who might get dragged into this unfairly “would be protected,” he said.

The trial is the first in Switzerland to shed light on how Valcke and other senior FIFA officials were striking deals for media rights to the soccer tournaments around the globe that earn FIFA hundreds of millions of dollars. The scale of the money flowing between the sport’s governing body and its business partners became public after American and Swiss prosecutors opened probes into corruption allegations at FIFA in 2015.

Earlier on Wednesday, Valcke told the court a 500,000-euro ($593,000) payment that he was accused of accepting as a bribe from the Greek businessman was actually a loan. Valcke said he needed help to cover more than 10 million Swiss francs ($11 million) in personal debt. He had previously told Swiss prosecutors during interviews in 2017 that his debts were closer to 4 million francs.

His bank, Credit Suisse Group AG, “wouldn’t give me a cent more,” Valcke told authorities in 2017 testimony read out in court Wednesday. “I don’t have a lot of people I can ask money from. I had to find someone who would lend me money, so I asked Dinos.”

Valcke was in the administration of FIFA head Joseph “Sepp” Blatter, who ended up resigning. Most of FIFA’s board was replaced after the bribery probes and a series of early morning raids in high-end hotels near its headquarters.

In April 2014, Valcke wrote to Deris, asking for a second loan after having secured an initial 500,000 euros.

“Hi Dinos, One question,” he wrote in the email shown as evidence to the court on Wednesday. “Long story short. I have to find 1 million euros !! Can you make me a loan payable back either next December on our future business.”

Valcke told the court his debts stemmed from the purchase of two homes in Switzerland worth 7 million francs as well as a 34-meter (112-foot) boat valued at more than 2 million francs. He also stands accused of aggravated criminal mismanagement related to his failure to tell FIFA about financial help he received to buy a third property, a villa in Sardinia.

By Hugo Miller, Bloomberg, 16 September 2020

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