PARIS (AFP) – The banned ex-UEFA chief Michel Platini was arrested yesterday in connection with a criminal investigation into the award of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.
The French football legend elected to lead European football’s governing body in 2007 was taken into custody by French anti-corruption police investigating the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to the gas-rich Gulf state.
Qatar was named to host the World Cup in a decision that triggered controversy over its suitability amid allegations of corruption that ultimately sparked FIFA’s worst ever scandal five years later.
France’s Financial Crimes Prosecutors Office (PNF) opened a preliminary investigation in 2016 into allegations of corruption, conspiracy and influence peddling surrounding FIFA’s award of the World Cup to Qatar and also the 2018 tournament to Russia.
According to Blatter, Qatar won hosting rights as a result of a deal with the French, derailing FIFA’s own “diplomatic arrangement” whereby hosting rights would go to Russia in 2018 and then to the United States four years later.
The French investigation centres on alleged French intervention linked to Platini and former president Nicolas Sarkozy.
According to the specialist magazine France Football, a “secret meeting” took place on November 23, 2010 at the Elysee Palace in Paris between Sarkozy, Qatar’s then-Prince (now Emir) Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, and Platini, at that time both UEFA president and vice-president of FIFA.
Just over a week later, FIFA awarded Qatar hosting rights for the 2022 tournament.
Platini has made no secret of his support for Qatar but denies he was influenced by Sarkozy, whose advisor for sport, Sophie Dion, was also arrested along with Platini.
“It was time to give them the World Cup. I am for that. It’s my conviction,” he said at the time.
Claude Gueant, Sarkozy’s erstwhile chief of staff and former interior minister, was also called in for questioning Tuesday by France’s Anti-Corruption Office of the Judicial Police.
The decision to award the event to Qatar ultimately led to a wider corruption probe that led to the overthrow of Blatter and Platini and the arrest of senior FIFA figures.
Platini, 63, led UEFA until 2015 when he was banned from football for four years for ethics violations including receiving a two-million Swiss francs (1.8 million euros, $2 million) payment from the disgraced former head of FIFA Sepp Blatter.
Qatar has been accused of buying votes in its bid to stage the World Cup and a subsequent report by US independent investigator Michael Garcia unearthed an array of suspect financial dealings, many linked to Sandro Rosell, the ex-Barcelona president who served as a consultant for Qatar.
Platini, a triple Ballon d’Or winner, was expected to succeed Blatter as FIFA president in 2016 before his fall from grace. He has been battling to clear his name ever since.