World Rugby vice-chairman and president of the French Rugby Federation (FFR) Bernard Laporte and four other of the most powerful men in French rugby were taken into custody for questioning by the French Financial Prosecution Office (PNF) yesterday.
Laporte, the former France and Toulon coach and a former French Minister for Sport, is under investigation for his dealings with Montpellier owner Mohed Altrad.
Altrad, the billionaire backer of the Top 14 club whose company's name adorns the France jersey, is also under arrest along with SergeSimon, vice-president of the FFR, Nicolas Hourquet, who is responsible for international relations at the Federation, and Claude Atcher, who is director general of the organising committee for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
Laporte was elected to serve as Bill Beaumont's vice-chairman at World Rugby in May at the end of a very public debate on the future direction of the game.
He is up for re-election at the FFR in 10 days time, but the PNF has been investigating his relationship with Altrad since 2017 and brought him in for questioning yesterday as part of a preliminary corruption probe according to AFP.
The offices of the FFR in Marcoussis were searched in 2018, while all five men have had their homes searched by the bureau.
Laporte is suspected of pressuring the appeals committee of the Top 14 to reduce a disciplinary punishment against Montpellier, while he is also accused of favouritism after a company he owns signed an image rights contract with the Altrad Group in 2017. Laporte eventually pulled out of the deal.
Laporte's partnership with Altrad was seen as key to the French winning the rights for the 2023 World Cup ahead of Ireland and South Africa.