Former FIFA Vice President Michel Platini arrested by French police over Qatar WC probe

Mr. Michel Platini

Former FIFA Vice and UEFA President; Michel Platini has been arrested by the French anti-corruption police in relation to roles played in awarding Qatar the 2022 World Cup hosting right.

The French police agency also known by the acronym OCLCIFF, which specializes in complex cases involving financial fraud, corruption and breaches of integrity are holding Platini, 63, in Nanterre.

Among others, Platini is being investigated over the controversial vote which handed the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. The former France captain was part of the FIFA tournament organising committee. The arrest comes on the heels of a report by the Daily Telegraph that the one-time second most powerful figure in football held meetings with the disgraced former Asian football official Mohammed Bin Hammam before casting the Qatar vote.

Platini had replaced the late Lennart Johansson as European football head from January 2007 till he relinquished the post in 2015 after being banned from football for six years, later reduced to four after appealing the sanction to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Qatar was controversially awarded the right to host the 2022 World Cup over competing nations South Korea, America, Australia and Japan in 2010. It was announced as host at the same time as Russia won the right to stage the 2018 tournament.

In 2014, it emerged Platini admitted holding a meeting in secret with Bin Hammam days before casting his vote for Qatar. The ex-Asian Football Confederation president was subsequently banned from football for life following an investigation by the Sunday Times.

“I have obviously met with Mr. Mohamed Bin Hammam on many occasions in 2010 as we were both members of the same FIFA Executive Committee since 2002,” Platini told the Telegraph. “During those conversations with Mr. Bin Hammam, the topic of the discussions was my potential candidature for the FIFA Presidency. Mr. Bin Hammam was indeed trying to convince me to become a candidate for the 2011 FIFA Presidential elections.”

Curiously, the year after the vote, the state-owned Qatar Sports Investments bought Paris Saint-Germain, Platini’s son Laurent became the chief executive of Burrda, a Qatari owned Sports Company. Platini insists his son’s role was unconnected to his vote.

A payment made in 2011 to Platini, after the Qatar vote and shortly before Blatter was re-elected also came under scrutiny when critics accused Blatter of paying Platini for his help in securing the World Cup bid for Qatar. Both men however deny that version of events.

Platini won the Ballon d’Or as the world’s best soccer player three times, and he’s still regarded as one of the all-time greats. But his name has increasingly been clouded by inquiries into FIFA’s choice of Qatar to host the World Cup, in an upset win over bids from the U.S., Australia, South Korea and Japan.

Aside Platini, the French police also spoke to two former officials from the Sarkozy era: Sophie Dion, a lawyer who served as the president’s adviser on sports, and Claude Guéant, who was the secretary general of L’Élysée under Sarkozy.

Like Platini, Dion was taken into custody. The official term for Guéant’s status is that of a “free suspect”: He was questioned but not detained.

Platini was sidelined by FIFA in late 2015, when the body’s ethics committee suspended him from all soccer-related activities for eight years, citing a US$2 million payment it said Platini received from FIFA when Blatter was its president.

France’s financial prosecutor services opened the investigation on grounds of private corruption, criminal association, influence peddling and benefiting from influence peddling to the two World Cups.

FIFA’s initial ban on Platini was later reduced to four years — it’s slated to expire in October.

By Michael Eli Dokosi/goldstreetbusiness.com