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FORMER Uefa president Michel Platini was questioned by police today after being arrested in a corruption probe of the vote that gave the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, a judicial official said.
Confirming a report by online news publication Mediapart, the official said Platini was placed in custody this morning when he was summoned at the Anti-Corruption Office of the Judicial Police outside Paris. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorised to discuss an ongoing investigation.
Platini, a former France football great, can either be released or formally charged after questioning ends.
Also detained this morning was Sophie Dion, a former sports adviser of Nicolas Sarkozy when he was French president, the judicial official said. Claude Gueant, the former secretary general of the Elysee under Sarkozy, was quizzed by investigators as a witness and 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 prosecutor services opened the investigation on grounds of private corruption, criminal association, influence peddling and benefiting from influence peddling relating to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which were awarded to Russia and Qatar respectively.
Fifa said it is aware of Platini’s situation but declined to comment further on his case.
Platini’s lawyer and adviser did not immediately answer messages from the press seeking comments.
Much intrigue has centered on Platini’s decision to vote for Qatar.
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” US officials that he would vote for the United States bid. However, he changed his mind after a November 23 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.
Sarkozy’s support for Qatar’s World Cup bid has been the subject of considerable speculation for several years and it is understood the French authorities want to know what promises were made at that lunch — 10 days before the Fifa vote.
It is no secret that Sarkozy was eager to foster close economic links with Qatar, but the investigation is also looking into the June 2011 deal that saw Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund fund the French leader’s favourite football team, Paris St Germain, and the subsequent launch of BeIN Sports, the Doha-based media company run by PSG’s chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi. Al-Khelaifi has denied any wrongdoing.
Platini has long insisted that the meeting did not influence his vote for Qatar less than two weeks later.
“Sarkozy never asked me to vote for Qatar, but I knew what would be good,” he claimed in 2015.
But Blatter added in a separate 2015 interview with the Financial Times 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 football in 2015.
The duo were banned for eight years by Fifa’s ethics committee in December 2015, although a Fifa appeal body reduced that to six years, for a “disloyal payment” of £1.5 million paid by Blatter to Platini.
The pair then made separate appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which upheld Blatter’s sanction but cut a further two years off Platini’s. Blatter has always denied any wrongdoing.
Qatar’s methods to secure bringing the World Cup to the Middle East for the first time have been subject to investigations by Fifa. US lawyer 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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