Post-raid probe on French tennis chief

French tennis federation president Jean Gachassin greets French tennis players prior the draw on March 3, 2016, at the Memorial Acte in Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe.
French tennis federation president Jean Gachassin greets French tennis players prior the draw on March 3, 2016, at the Memorial Acte in Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe.PHOTO: AFP

PARIS • With the start of the French Open less than three weeks away, tennis appears to be suffering another embarrassing episode after French prosecutors seized documents on Tuesday after carrying out searches at the national tennis federation and the home of its president, Jean Gachassin.

France's financial prosecutors' office said in a statement that the searches related to possible "misappropriation of property and influence trafficking" relating to the existence of "an illicit system of reselling tickets for the French Open tournament" and the "awarding of the contract for the renovation and enlargement of Roland Garros".

It added that the searches resulted in the "seizure of documents useful to the investigation". A travel agency in Tarbes, southern France, was also searched.

In a brief statement, the tennis federation said it was "fully cooperating with the investigators".

The federation's lawyer, Eric Andrieu, said: "The federation has done important work over the past 10 years to limit trafficking of tickets and the black market."

The raid comes after months of rumours about the existence of a ticket sale racket and long-running rows over the expansion of the Roland Garros stadium, where the French Open is held. This year's tournament starts on May 22.

In February a French satirical newspaper, Le Canard Enchaine, published an article alleging Gachassin had sold French Open tickets at face value to a travel agent friend who had then sold them on at five times their original price.

The French federation has been hit by recent rows, notably the sacking of its director general, Gilbert Ysern, in February. He was fired after falling out with Gachassin.

The incident divided French tennis with top players Gilles Simon and Julien Benneteau backing Ysern.

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 05, 2016, with the headline 'Post-raid probe on French tennis chief'. Print Edition | Subscribe