Private jets, favours to son detailed in FIFA official’s case

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By Associated Press

GENEVA: FIFA spent $11.7 million in less than three years on private jets, including luxury sight-seeing trips for a top official, a newly published legal document shows.

Jerome Valcke, then the FIFA secretary general, was urged in a 2013 internal memo to find “more cost efficient alternatives whenever possible,” according to the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s verdict explaining why his appeal against a 10-year ban was dismissed.

Excessive use of private jets and ordering business class travel for his son was a factor in Valcke being banned from soccer by the FIFA ethics committee after he was fired in 2016. His appeal was dismissed by sport’s highest court in July.

Valcke’s interventions to help place a World Cup contract worth an initial $709,000 linked to his son’s business interests were also detailed.

The CAS verdict noted Valcke broke FIFA rules four times by flying unnecessarily by private jet or with more than one guest, and without repaying the extra cost.

The flights included a sightseeing trip within India to the Taj Mahal, a meeting with the Emir of Qatar in Doha, and taking his family and a children’s nanny to the World Cup qualifying draw in July 2015 in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Valcke told the court he followed advice about the Russian trip from then-FIFA president Sepp Blatter “to not travel on commercial flights to avoid arrest.” Several weeks earlier, American and Swiss federal prosecutors unsealed their sweeping investigations of corruption linked to FIFA officials.

This was “manifestly not a valid reason for a law-abiding individual,” the panel of three CAS judges wrote. Swiss prosecutors announced criminal proceedings against Valcke in 2016 and 2017 for financial wrongdoing. Those proceedings are ongoing.

It cost FIFA $71,699 for Valcke’s family to fly privately to St. Petersburg instead of taking a commercial flight, according to an internal review. There was extra cost for his son, Sebastien Valcke, to fly from Brazil to Zurich at FIFA’s expense to join them boarding the private jet, the ruling stated.

“Mr. Valcke requested FIFA that his son’s flight be … upgraded from economy to business,” the CAS panel wrote.

Valcke also helped his son’s business career in a deal to supply equipment to a fan zone on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro during the 2014 World Cup.

In July 2013, Valcke, his son and FIFA’s then marketing director, Thierry Weil, went to Manchester, England, to meet a firm, EON Reality Inc., developing virtual reality software.

During the following negotiations, Valcke “used his position within FIFA to help his son obtaining remuneration from a FIFA business partner,” the court said.

He shared confidential FIFA emails with his son and advised him how to structure requests for commission.

In dismissing Valcke’s appeal, the judging panel said his further “grave misconduct” of exploring a black market ticket deal for the World Cup in Brazil was worth a 10-year ban by itself.

The court also upheld a 100,000 Swiss franc ($104,000) fine imposed by FIFA.