Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 July 2019

Michel Platini arrested in investigation on awarding of 2022 World Cup to Qatar, report says

The former Uefa president denies any wrongdoing following his arrest by anti-corruption police as part of tournament investigation

Uefa president Michel Platini voted for Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup. AFP
Uefa president Michel Platini voted for Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup. AFP

Former Uefa President and French football captain Michel Platini has denied any wrongdoing following his arrest on Tuesday into a corruption probe surrounding the awarding of the Fifa World Cup to Qatar in 2022.

The 63-year-old, once considered a protege of former Fifa president Sepp Blatter, was taken into custody by the Anti-Corruption Office of the Judicial Police, France's main anti-corruption task force.

A judicial official said his arrest was part of the investigation into the awarding of the tournament. He will now either be released or formally charged.

French financial prosecutors have been investigating the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and have previously questioned Blatter.

Platini's communications team said he has also faced questioning over the awarding of the 2016 European Championship to France, adding that he was "absolutely confident in the future" and has "strictly nothing to reproach himself with”.

"Michel Platini expresses himself serenely and precisely, answering all the questions, including those on the conditions for the awarding of the 2016 Euro, and has provided useful explanations," the statement said.

His lawyer, William Bourdon, said the former Juventus playmaker was also questioned as a witness and placed in custody only for "technical reasons."

Sophie Dion, a former sports adviser of Nicolas Sarkozy when he was French president, was also arrested.

Claude Gueant, the former secretary general of the Elysee under Sarkozy, was heard as a witness and not detained.

The nations's financial prosecutor opened the investigation on the 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 was elected president of Uefa, Europe's footballing body, in 2007 and served until 2015.

He was banned from the position by Fifa's Ethics Committee after being found guilty of a series of ethical breaches.

He was also banned from football for four years following the 2015 football corruption scandal, which was due to end shortly, after he was found to have arranged a $2 million backdated salary payment to Blatter.

Platini told The New York Times last week that "I will be back" after his ban ends in October.

In the bidding for the 2022 World Cup, Platini voted for Qatar to host the tournament.

The small Gulf state was awarded the global event in December 2010.

There has been much criticism from different corners of the football world about the country's ability to host the tournament, which fields the world's best 32 countries against one another.

Human rights groups have raised concerns over the abuse and exploitation of migrant workers helping to build stadiums in Qatar as more than 1,000 people have lost their lives since it was awarded the contract.

Earlier this month the chair of Qatar 2022’s organising committee admitted the “high number” of deaths recorded by the latest workers’ welfare report were a “tragedy”.

Hassan Al Thawadi said: “There’s no doubt that every death is a tragedy, it’s as simple as that.

“While progress has been made in the state of Qatar there is still a long way to go.”

When the voting was taking place, Blatter, who was Fifa president at the time, blamed Platini for backing out of a secret "gentleman's agreement" to award the 2022 tournament to the United States.

Platini told AP 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 told the AP 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.

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."

Updated: June 18, 2019 07:06 PM

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