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19.06.2019 Sports News

Former European football boss Platini arrested on corruption charges

By David Coffey with RFI
REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann
LISTEN JUN 19, 2019
REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

Former UEFA president Michel Platini has been arrested in relation to a corruption probe into the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.

Confirming a report by online news publication Mediapart, an official source said Platini was taken into custody on Tuesday as part of the investigation into the awarding of the global tournament.

Platini, a former captain of the French national football team, is being detained at the Anti-Corruption Office of the Judicial Police outside Paris.

Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022 bids under scrutiny

Also detained Tuesday for questioning was Sophie Dion, a former sports adviser of Nicolas Sarkozy when he was French president. Claude Gueant, the former secretary general of the Elysée under Sarkozy, has also been quizzed by investigators as a witness but was not detained.

French financial prosecutors have been investigating the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and previously questioned former FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

France's financial prosecution services opened the investigation on suspicion of private corruption, criminal association, abuse of a privileged position and benefiting from such abuse relating to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which were awarded to Russia and Qatar, respectively.

Change of heart after Sarkozy meeting?
Blatter, who was FIFA president at the time of the vote in 2010, blamed Platini for backing out of a secret "gentleman's agreement" to award the 2022 tournament to the United States.

Platini said in 2015 that he "might have told" American officials that he would vote for the United States bid. However, he changed his mind after a November 2010 meeting, hosted by then-President Nicolas Sarkozy at his official residence in Paris and Qatar's crown prince, now Emir, Tamin bin Hamad al-Thani.

Platini has long insisted that the meeting did not influence his vote for Qatar less than two weeks later.

However Blatter claimed in a 2015 interview that Platini told him ahead of the World Cup vote: "I am no longer in your picture because I have been told by the head of state that we should consider the situation of France."

Both Platini and Blatter were toppled from their positions of power at the top of soccer in 2015. Platini was banned by FIFA for financial misconduct in relation to a $2 million payment authorized by Blatter   a suspension due to expire in October.

Qatar's methods to bring the World Cup to the Middle East for the first time have been subject to investigations by FIFA. American attorney Michael Garcia found that some of Qatar's conduct "may not have met the standards" required by FIFA but concluded there was no "evidence of any improper activity by the bid team".

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