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 2019 track world championships in Qatar, news agency Associated Press has reported. The championships will be held in Doha from September 27 to October 6.
A judicial 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."
Yousef Al-Obaidly was appointed CEO in November 2018, assuming the role previously held by Nasser al Khelaifi, who has continued in his role as chairman of the group.
In November 2016, French newspaper Le Monde 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 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."