Platini goes free but graft probe goes on

Former Uefa president Michel Platini leaving a police station outside Paris where he was detained for questioning over the awarding of the 2022 Qatar World Cup. He has maintained his innocence in the affair.
Former Uefa president Michel Platini leaving a police station outside Paris where he was detained for questioning over the awarding of the 2022 Qatar World Cup. He has maintained his innocence in the affair.PHOTO: REUTERS

French police question ex-Uefa boss on Qatar's winning 2022 World Cup bid and other matters

PARIS • French authorities have not opened proceedings against former Uefa president Michel Platini after questioning him but the probe is still ongoing, judicial sources confirmed to DPA yesterday.

The former France great, 63, was released from custody on Tuesday evening after being held for several hours at the Anti-Corruption Office of the Judicial Police outside Paris, and quizzed as part of a corruption investigation into the award of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.

The oil-rich Gulf nation was controversially awarded the quadrennial tournament after a December 2010 vote by Fifa's executive committee.

Authorities are reportedly investigating Platini's meeting with then French president Nicolas Sarkozy and Qatar ruler Sheikh Tamim Hamad Al-Thani at the former's official residence, Elysee Palace, less than two weeks before that vote.

They are also looking into possible offences including private corruption, conspiracy and influence peddling.

The decision to grant the Arab state hosting rights surprised many observers, given the lack of potential local audiences for the games, the scorching summer heat, and the competitiveness of the national team, who have never qualified for the event, although they lifted their maiden Asian Cup in February.

Fifa have investigated the awarding of the World Cup to Qatar but the world football governing body did not find evidence of improper behaviour from its bid team.

Platini, as he left the police station, told reporters that he faced "a multitude of questions".

He added: "It was very long... it was obviously always going to be long, since they asked me questions over Euro 2016, the World Cup in Russia, the World Cup in Qatar, Paris Saint-Germain, Fifa.

"I replied to all the questions calmly, while still not knowing why I was there."

CONFUSED BUT CALM

It (the investigation) was very long...
I replied to all the questions calmly, while still not knowing why I was there.

MICHEL PLATINI, telling reporters that he faced a multitude of questions during the probe.

Platini, who voted for Qatar in 2010, also protested his innocence, claiming he was "hurt" by the detention, but he felt "at peace" as it was "an old affair".

His lawyer William Bourdon also insisted that his client was not arrested but rather, underwent "a hearing as a witness in the context desired by the investigators" and there had been "a lot of fuss over nothing".

Platini was suspended by Fifa's ethics committee for eight years in 2015, with the ban later reduced to four years, for receiving a "disloyal payment" of 2 million Swiss francs (S$2.73 million) from then Fifa president Sepp Blatter.

The pair claimed it was delayed remuneration, but the Swiss was later banned for six years for his role. Before his fall from grace, Platini had been considered the favourite to succeed Blatter as Fifa chief.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, DPA, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 20, 2019, with the headline 'Platini goes free but graft probe goes on'. Print Edition | Subscribe