Platini held in World Cup corruption probe

18 June 2019

Platini
Photo: Getty Images Former UEFA president, Michel Platini (centre), has been arrested following an investigation by France’s National Financial Procuratorate.

Arrest follows three year-long French investigation into award of the World Cup.

Officials who served under former President Sarkozy also held.

Elysee lunch understood to be of key interest.

James Corbett corbett@offthepitch.com

Former UEFA president, Michel Platini, has been arrested following an investigation by France’s National Financial Procuratorate (PNF) into the award of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.

Platini, who is currently serving a four year ban from football, voted for Qatar in the December 2010 poll, which nine years later remains clouded with controversy.

A significant majority of the 22 members of FIFA’s ruling executive committee who voted for Qatar and Russia that day have since been indicted in corruption probes, with several serving prison sentences. In 2015 Platini received a six year ban from football related activity – later reduced to four years – for an “improper payments” scandal unrelated to the World Cup host vote.

Sarkozy adviser

According to French media the PNF is investigating “alleged acts of active and passive bribery of non-public servants” in connection with the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.

An adviser to the former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, Sophie Dion, when he was at the Elysee, was also placed in custody "for alleged acts of corruption”.  Claude Gueant, former secretary general of the Elysee, was also detained under the status of “free suspect”.

At the heart of the French investigation is understood to be a now notorious lunch organized on 23 November 2010 – a week before the World Cup vote – at the Elysee Palace.

French authorities are still to release a statement on the arrests.

In 2016, the PNF opened a preliminary investigation for “private corruption”, “criminal conspiracy”, “influence peddling and trading in influence” around Qatar’s award of the tournament.

Platini is understood to have given evidence to investigators in December 2017.

Notorius lunch

At the heart of the French investigation is understood to be a now notorious lunch organized on 23 November 2010 – a week before the World Cup vote – at the Elysee Palace, attended by Sarkozy, Platini, the current Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, and Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim, then prime minister and foreign minister of the emirate.

Former FIFA president and Platini nemesis Sepp Blatter has regularly used the Elysee lunch as a line of attack on the Frenchman, claiming that it directly led to “four votes” for Qatar.

That meeting is alleged to have been key to confirming not just Platini’s support for Qatar and for him bringing several FIFA voters on board to support the emirate, but also several key Qatari investments into football.

These include a broadcast deal for Al Jazeera Sport (now Bein) to screen the French leagues, and the Qatari purchase of Sarkozy’s favourite team, Paris Saint Germain, the following year.

Line of attack

Former FIFA president and Platini nemesis Sepp Blatter has regularly used the Elysee lunch as a line of attack on the Frenchman, claiming that it directly led to “four votes” for Qatar and was decisive in the award of the World Cup to the Gulf.

Qatar ultimately prevailed over a US bid by 13 votes to 9.

Platini has always denied that Sarkozy asked him to vote for Qatar and said that he had already decided to vote for the Gulf state. He is also understood to have been opposed to the sale of PSG to Qatar Sport Investments.

More to follow.