(Bloomberg) -- An ex-FIFA official caught up in a corruption scandal said that a 500,000-euro ($593,000) payment that prosecutors call a bribe was actually a loan to help him cover $11 million in personal debt.
Jerome Valcke, former FIFA secretary general, was put on the defensive during his second day of testimony at Switzerland’s Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona, where he is on trial for accepting bribes from a Greek businessman, Dinos Deris.
Valcke told the court on Wednesday he was more than 10 million Swiss francs ($11 million) in debt at the time he sought the loans from Deris in 2013. 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 them 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.”
The courtroom exchanges shed light on the luxurious lifestyle enjoyed by FIFA’s top brass as world soccer’s governing body earned hundreds of millions of dollars handing out media rights to soccer tournaments around the globe. The scale of the spending burst into the open after U.S. and Swiss prosecutors opened probes into allegations of corruption at FIFA in 2015.
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 resulted in 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 properties in Switzerland as well as a boat. He also stands accused of aggravated criminal mismanagement related to his failure to tell FIFA about financial help he allegedly received to buy a third property, a villa in Sardinia.
Valcke told the court he rejected the allegation of bribery and had never accepted money, other than a loan from the Greek.
“I didn’t arrange a corrupt deal with Dinos Deris,” he said.
Deris is charged with bribery over 1.25 million euros he allegedly paid Valcke in exchange for favorable treatment of his bid for Greek and Italian media rights for 12 years of tournaments.
Deris isn’t attending the trial because he is unwell, his lawyer, Alec Reymond, said, but will face prosecution in absentia, the judges decided on Monday. Reymond said the whole trial is flawed and should be delayed because of an ongoing scandal involving Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber’s meetings with FIFA executives.
The judges decided Tuesday to proceed with the trial. Lauber resigned his post in July and is likely facing a criminal probe over a series of undocumented meetings he held with FIFA President Gianni Infantino as part of his investigation into corruption at the organization.
A specially-appointed prosecutor is already investigating Infantino. Soccer’s governing body has previously said the meetings were legitimate and legal, and didn’t respond to a request for comment on the accusation against Infantino.
Lauber has said he accepted a Swiss court’s sanction of him in July but “rejected the accusation of lying.”
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