Sunday 15 December 2019

Headquarters of French rugby union (FFR) raided by police investigating alleged conflict of interest involving Bernard Laporte

President of the Fédération Française de Rugby Bernard Laporte
President of the Fédération Française de Rugby Bernard Laporte Newsdesk Newsdesk

Police conducted raids at the French rugby federation (FFR) headquarters on Tuesday amid an investigation into an alleged conflict of interest involving federation president Bernard Laporte.

The national financial prosecutor's office said the police searches took place at the national center of rugby in Marcoussis, outside Paris, where the France squad is preparing for the Six Nations.

Last month, French sports minister Laura Flessel gave justice officials the conclusions of an investigation into Laporte, who has denied accusations that he pressured the French federation's appeals board to reduce sanctions against Top 14 club Montpellier, which is owned by his close friend, Mohad Altrad.

Following a three-month investigation, the French sports ministry said Laporte contacted the appeal commission's president on June 30 and stressed that the phone call resulted in a change of decision from commission members.

Montpellier's €70,000 (£65,850) fine was reduced to €20,000 (£17,560) and a one-game stadium ban canceled after Laporte's intercession.

Prosecutors can now decide to open a formal investigation that could lead to Laporte being handed preliminary charges.

According to L'Equipe newspaper, a dozen police officers conducted the raids. The French federation did not immediately answer a message from the AP seeking comment.

Altrad, a Syrian-born French billionaire, also sealed a partnership with the French federation to become the first shirt sponsor of the Tricolors. Earlier this month, the French federation said its ethical committee considered the new sponsorship deal signed with construction equipment group Altrad did not cause a conflict of interest.

The five-year contract is expected to yield €35million ($30.7million) for amateur rugby. The Altrad group was the sole bidder.

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