Yousef Al-Obaidly, director general of Qatar-based beIN Media Group, has been issued with preliminary charges of corruption amid a probe into the bidding process for the World Athletics Championships.
The Associated Press news agency has reported that a judicial official in France said Al-Obaidly was indicted on March 28. Lamine Diack, the former president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), was also handed preliminary charges of “passive corruption”, the official said.
UK newspaper The Guardian reported that the case centres on two payments totalling $3.5m (€3.1m), which were sent in October and November 2011, when Qatar was bidding to host the 2017 World Athletics Championships and the 2020 summer Olympic Games. Qatar was unsuccessful in both bids but was later awarded hosting rights for the 2019 World Athletics Championships.
The Guardian said this year’s World Athletics Championships in Doha, scheduled to run from September 28 to October 6, will go ahead as planned as the investigation process only relates to the failed bid for the 2017 event.
The Guardian’s report added that investigators in France are considering evidence that $3.5m was transferred from Oryx Qatar Sports Investment to Pamodzi Sports Marketing, which was founded by Papa Massata Diack, a former IAAF marketing consultant and son of ex-president Lamine.
Al-Obaidly is a close ally of Nasser Al-Khelaifi, president of French Ligue 1 football club Paris Saint-Germain and chairman of beIN. According to French newspaper Le Monde, Al-Khelaifi said the $3.5m transaction was facilitated by Al-Obaidly.
Al-Obaidly has denied all wrongdoing and in a statement reported by the Associated Press, he said: “I voluntarily attended an appointed meeting as part of a preliminary investigation.
“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.”
The investigation concerns Al Obaidly as an individual and not beIN Media Group.