Former Uefa president Michel Platini has been arrested over the decision to award Qatar the 2022 World Cup.
The 63-year-old was held by French police in the early hours of this morning in Paris as part of an ongoing investigation into allegations of corruption during the bidding process, which saw Qatar emerge as shock winners to stage the game’s biggest tournament.
French media outlet Mediapart claimed a former advisor to French president Nicolas Sarkozy, Sophie Dion, was also taken into custody, while another, Claude Gueant, is being questioned by officers acting on behalf of France’s national financial prosecutor’s office (PNF), which began examining the 2022 bidding process in 2016.
Platini was Uefa president from January 2007 until 2016, when he stepped down after being banned from football for six years, a sentence later reduced to four after an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. That punishment centred on an alleged payment of two million Swiss francs Platini was said to have received from then FIFA president Sepp Blatter in 2011.
The alleged payment was linked to a period when Platini acted as a special adviser to Blatter between 1999 and 2002, eight years before Qatar won the right to host the 2022 World Cup as FIFA also decided to award the 2018 tournament to Russia — the first time simultaneous votes had been held.
Those decisions have been the subject of widespread investigations and allegations, with Blatter, now disgraced himself after being banned in 2016 for six years on appeal, accusing Platini and Sarkozy of orchestrating Qatar’s win.
In response to a Sunday Times investigation that claimed FIFA agreed a secret television rights contract with Al Jazeera worth $400m (£319m) three weeks before the vote, Blatter said in March that choosing Qatar “was made following the intervention of Sarkozy, asking Platini to vote with his friends for Qatar”. Blatter went on to assert that four key votes subsequently swung in Qatar’s favour, edging them past the USA.
Platini admitted in 2014 that he held a meeting with Mohammed bin Hammam, the Qatari-born former Asian Football Confederation president who was later given a life ban from football by FIFA for “conflicts of interest”, days before casting his 2022 vote.
He is under scrutiny in part due to a lunch just before the votes at which Sarkozy, the current Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem all reportedly attended. Gueant and Dion were also said to have been present.
However, Platini has insisted he knew he would vote for Qatar prior to that meeting and denies any wrongdoing.
A statement read: “Michel Platini, after being heard in the same investigation in open court last year, is now questioned under the regime of custody for technical reasons.
“His counsel, Mr. William Bourdon, strongly asserts that this is in no way an arrest, but a hearing as a witness in the context desired by the investigators, a framework that prevents all persons heard, then confronted, can not confer outside the procedure.
“Michel Platini expresses himself serenely and precisely, answering all the questions, including those on the conditions for the awarding of Euro 2016, and has provided useful explanations.
“He has nothing to reproach himself with and claims to be totally foreign to facts that go beyond him. He is absolutely confident about what’s next.”
Source: Evening Standard