Former UEFA chief arrested as part of 2022 World Cup investigation

Former Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) president Michel Platini has been arrested in relation to a corruption probe into the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, a judicial official said Tuesday. Confirming a report by online news publication Mediapart, the official said Platini was taken into custody on Tuesday as part of the investigation into the awarding of the tournament. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss an ongoing investigation. Platini, a former France soccer great, was being detained at the Anti-Corruption Office of the Judicial Police outside Paris. Also detained Tuesday for questioning 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. Platini’s lawyer and adviser did not immediately answer messages from The Associated 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” American officials that he would vote for the United States bid. However, he changed his mind after a November 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. 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 said in 2015. But Blatter claimed in a 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 soccer in 2015. Platini was banned by FIFA for financial misconduct in relation to a $2 million payment authorized by Blatter – a suspension due to expire in October. Qatar’s methods to bring the World Cup to the Middle East for the first time have been subject to investigations by FIFA. American attorney 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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