Former Uefa president Michel Platini held for questioning
French police probe former Uefa head and football star over awarding of 2022 World Cup to Qatar
Michel Platini, the former head of European football's governing body Uefa was detained for questioning by French police yesterday over the awarding of World Cup 2022 to Qatar.
France's national financial prosecutor's office, which specialises in investigating economic crimes and corruption, has been leading a probe into the awarding of the 2022 tournament to the Gulf emirate since 2016.
It is looking into possible offences including private corruption, conspiracy and influence peddling.
"He has done absolutely nothing wrong and affirms that he is totally unrelated to the facts (of the case), which are unknown to him," said a statement from Platini's representatives.
"His lawyer, William Bourdon, would like to state as strongly as possible that this is not an arrest, but rather being heard as a witness by the investigators within a framework preventing those being questioned and heard from consulting each other during the process," a statement issued on behalf of Bourdon and Platini read.
Officials with Qatar's World Cup organising committee said they had no immediate comment.
Football's world governing body Fifa said it was aware of the reports concerning Platini, who is a former Fifa vice-president, but said it had no details on the investigation.
Fifa "reiterates its full commitment to cooperating with the authorities in any given country of the world where investigations are taking place in connection with football activities", it said in a statement.
The decision in December 2010 to award the World Cup to Qatar surprised many, given the lack of potential local audiences for the games, the extremely hot summer weather, and the poor performance of the country's national squad.
It will be the first Arab state to host the competition.
Le Monde newspaper reported that prosecutors were particularly looking into a lunch hosted by France's then-president, Nicolas Sarkozy, nine days before the vote that awarded the cup to Qatar.
WORLD CUP 2022
Just over a week later, Fifa voted to award Qatar hosting rights for the 2022 tournament.
According to Sepp Blatter, the Fifa president at the time, Qatar won hosting rights as a result of a deal with France, derailing Fifa's own "diplomatic arrangement" whereby hosting rights would have gone to Russia in 2018 and then to the United States four years later.
Platini dismissed Blatter's allegations as a "tissue of lies" and denies he was influenced by Sarkozy.
"It was time to give them the World Cup," he said at that time. " I am for that. It's my conviction."
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 (S$2.7m) payment from Blatter.
Two of Sarkozy's aides at that time, then Elysee secretary general Claude Gueant and Sarkozy's adviser for sports Sophie Dion, were also questioned by police yesterday.
Dion remains detained with Platini. Gueant is a "free suspect", a source said.
A spokesman for Sarkozy declined to comment. A lawyer for Dion could not be reached for comment.
Under French law, suspects can be held for questioning for up to 48 hours. - REUTERS, AFP