Thursday 18 July 2019

Police quiz Platini over awarding of World Cup to Qatar

Michel Platini: Former Uefa chief supported Qatar over rival US bid. Photo: PA
Michel Platini: Former Uefa chief supported Qatar over rival US bid. Photo: PA

Emmanuel Jarry

Michel Platini, the former head of European football association Uefa, was detained for questioning by French police yesterday over the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.

Mr Platini's lawyer, William Bourdon, said his client was innocent of all charges and was being questioned on "technical grounds".

The detention of the former soccer star was first reported by French investigative website Mediapart.

France's national financial prosecutor's office, which specialises in investigating economic crimes and corruption, has been leading a probe into the awarding of the 2022 tournament to the Gulf emirate since 2016. It is looking into possible offences including private corruption, conspiracy and influence peddling.

"His lawyer, William Bourdon, would like to state as strongly as possible that this is not an arrest, but rather being heard as a witness by the investigators within a framework preventing those being questioned and heard from consulting each other during the process," a statement issued on behalf of Mr Bourdon and Mr Platini read.

Officials with Qatar's World Cup organising committee said they had no immediate comment.

Soccer's world governing body, Fifa, said it was aware of the reports concerning Mr Platini, who is a former Fifa vice-president, but said it had no details on the investigation.

Fifa "reiterates its full commitment to co-operating with the authorities in any given country of the world where investigations are taking place in connection with football activities," it said.

The decision in 2010 to award the World Cup to Qatar surprised many given the lack of potential local audiences for the games, the extremely hot summer weather, and the poor performance of the country's national squad. It will be the first Arab state to host the competition.

'Le Monde' newspaper reported that prosecutors were particularly looking into a lunch hosted by France's then president, Nicolas Sarkozy, nine days before the vote that awarded the cup to Qatar. Mr Platini and Sheikh Tamim Ben Hamad Al Thani, who was Qatar's prime minister and is now the country's emir, were guests at the lunch.

Mr Platini has since acknowledged that he supported Qatar over a rival bid from the United States in the vote, but said Mr Sarkozy "never asked him to", the newspaper said.

Two of Mr Sarkozy's aides at that time, then Elysée secretary general Claude Gueant and Mr Sarkozy's adviser for sports Sophie Dion, were also questioned by police yesterday, judicial sources confirmed to Reuters. Ms Dion remained detained with Mr Platini. Mr Gueant was a "free suspect", one source said.

A lawyer for Mr Gueant, who was later appointed interior minister by Mr Sarkozy, was not available for comment. A spokeswoman for Mr Sarkozy declined to comment. A lawyer for Ms Dion could not immediately be reached for comment.

Under French law, suspects can be held for questioning for up to 48 hours.

Mr Platini was forced to leave his job as Uefa chief after he was investigated in another case over 1.8 million Swiss francs (€1.6m) that he received from Fifa in 2011. He was cleared in that case.

Irish Independent

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