June 19 – Former UEFA chief Michel Platini was released in the early hours of Wednesday after having been questioned by French anti-corruption authorities over the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.
Platini is currently seeing out the last few months of an unrelated four-year suspension from the sport over a $2 million “disloyal payment” he received from Sepp Blatter who was also banned for his role in the transaction.
His brief detention rekindled speculation about the how rank outsiders Qatar won the vote to stage the tournament but Platini told reporters he was hurt at having to be called in.
“I arrived and was immediately taken into custody. It hurts. It hurts for everything I can think of, everything I’ve done. It hurts, it hurts. But after all, they did their job and then we tried to answer all the questions,” he said.
“It was very long, given the number of questions, 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, whilst still not knowing why I was there.”
Platini’s lawyer, William Bourdon, said his client was innocent of all charges and that he had been questioned on “technical grounds” and released without charge, adding that there has been “a lot of fuss over nothing”.
“We do not believe in any way that Michel Platini can be considered as a suspect for anything, either yesterday or today or tomorrow. So for us, this affair is over.”
Whilst the controversy of choosing Qatar as 2022 World Cup hosts has died down considerably in recent months as the Gulf state pushes ahead with preparations after being cleared of any wrongdoing, it nevertheless triggered a string of allegations of corruption that still casts a shadow of suspicion over the entire process and which fanned the flames of the FBI investigations and US Department of Justice indictments that became FIFA’s worst ever scandal.
The French investigation is reported to centre specifically on alleged intervention linked to Platini and former French president Nicolas Sarkozy.
At the time of the World Cup 2022 ballot Platini was one of the 24 voting members of the FIFA executive committee and openly declared he was voting for Qatar. Suspicions surrounding Platini’s motivations were raised when it became public that he had had a lunch with Sarkozy and the future Emir of Qatar. Platini has always denied that he was following instructions from Sarkozy to vote for Qatar for 2022.
Platini led UEFA until 2015 when he was banned from football for four years for ethics violations including receiving a two-million Swiss francs payment from Blatter, who was himself suspended for six years.
Platini had been expected to succeed Blatter as FIFA president before his fall from grace. He has been battling to clear his name ever since and as things stand now is free to return when his ban ends in October.
In 2016, France’s National Financial Procuratorate (PNF) opened a preliminary investigation for “private corruption”, “criminal conspiracy”, “influence peddling and trading in influence” around the Qatar’s winning of the tournament. Platini had already been heard as a witness in December 2017.
However, his version of the conversation at a lunch with Sarkozy, the current Emir of Qatar, Tamim Ben Hamad Al Thani, and Sheikh Hamad Ben Jassem, then prime minister and foreign minister of the emirate, differs from the account of Sophie Dion, at the time technical advisor in charge of sports for Sarkozy, who was also at the lunch.
According to Le Monde investigators were seeking clarification on the differences in the accounts of Platini and Dion. Platini was interviewed “under the regime of custody for technical reasons”.
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