Former UEFA president Michel Platini is being questioned by French anticorruption investigators over the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.
Platini, 63, was detained on Tuesday morning along with Claude Gueant, the former secretary general of the Élysée Palace under the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy, also being interview as a ‘free suspect’. Another adviser to Sarkozy during his presidency, Sophie Dion, was also detained for questioning.
The banned former UEFA president and France football legend is currently serving a ban from football along with ex-FIFA president Sepp Blatter for ethics breaches in 2015.
The detention of Platini, who voted for Qatar to host the tournament, is the result of two years’ work by French investigators from the country’s financial crime unit, who – just like their counterparts in the US and Switzerland – have been investigating allegations of corruption connected to FIFA’s shock decision to award Qatar the World Cup in 2022.
According to the judicial sources, the PNF is investigating possible ‘private corruption’, ‘criminal conspiracy’ and ‘influence peddling and trading in influence’ over the December 2010 vote, which are categories of corruption in French law.
Platini’s representatives issued a statement stressing he had not been arrested – which was confirmed by authorities – and that the detention was for a ‘technical’ reason to maintain the confidentiality of the interview. The statement said Platini had also been questioned about UEFA’s award, by single vote, of the 2016 European Championship to France. Platini was said to be ‘absolutely confident’ that he had done nothing wrong and ‘had nothing to reproach himself for’.
It is understood the investigation will focus on a lunch Platini attended in Paris just days before that controversial vote in 2010, with the French president at the time, Nicolas Sarkozy at his official residence and the Qatari head of state.
The then FIFA president, Sepp Blatter, has said Platini told him he had changed his vote from the USA to Qatar after the lunch, and that three further members of the European FIFA executive committee changed their votes to Qatar.
Given that Blatter has been interviewed as part of the same case, it is no surprise that Platini is also now facing questions.
It has long been suspected that the prospect of important trade deals between the two nations, and the following Qatari takeover of Paris St-Germain in 2011, may have been used as leverage to get Sarkozy’s support.
Given the period of time that has passed since the 2010 vote, and how much has changed at FIFA, there seems little prospect that could affect Qatar’s chances of hosting the World Cup in 2022, even if Platini is charged.
FIFA’s own 2014 internal investigation effectively cleared Qatar of corruption and stripping it of the event at this stage could leave it open to legal action.
Albeit, it does serve as a reminder of the scandal and suspicion that surrounds the question of how Qatar won the right to stage the prestigious event.