French soccer legend Platini arrested in connection to awarding of WC to Qatar

Michel Platini. (File Photo: IANS)

Paris: Former UEFA president and ex-French international star midfielder Michel Platini has been arrested on suspicion of having been involved in alleged corruption linked to a decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.

Platini was nabbed at around 09.30 local time (07.30 GMT) and taken to the Anti-Corruption Office of France’s Judicial Police, Efe news reports.

Qatar was in 2010 controversially awarded the right to host the 2022 World Cup, a decision that was announced at the same time as Russia clinching the 2018 tournament. Platini has denied any wrongdoing.

The former France international captain, who was UEFA president from 2007 to 2015, was serving a four-year disqualification which ends in October for violating the organisation’s code of ethics by accepting a fee in 2011 that was authorised by then FIFA president, the now disgraced Joseph Blatter.

The amount of the award was some 1.8 million euros for work done between 1998 and 2002.

Platini and Blatter were both cleared of corruption charges in 2015 but found guilty of a series of regulation breaches that included conflict of interest when 2 million Swiss francs were transferred from Blatter to Platini in 2011.

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s sports adviser Sophie Dion and former secretary general of the Elysee Palace, Claude Guéant, were also reportedly asked to give testimony.

France’s National Financial Prosecutor in 2016 opened an investigation for alleged corruption in the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, for which Platini already testified as a witness in December 2017.

The investigation focused on the meeting held in November 2010 by Qatari authorities with Sarkozy and Platini at the Elysee Palace which was also attended by Guéant and Dion.

Platini admitted holding a meeting in secret with disgraced former football official Mohamed bin Hammam days before casting his vote for Qatar but has maintained that it did not influence his decision.

Both Platini and Blatter were overthrown from their commanding positions at the top of soccer in 2015.

Qatar’s practices in bringing the World Cup to the Middle East for the first time have been subject to FIFA investigations.