Platini arrest: Detail of French investigation and Qatar focus  revealed

June 20 – More detail is emerging of the 15-hour interview of Michel Platini by France’s Central Office for Combating Corruption and Financial and Tax Crimes (OCLCIFF).

The former UEFA boss was detained on Tuesday, alongside Sophie Dion, former technical adviser in charge of sports to former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, as part of this investigation “aimed at alleged acts of corruption”. Claude Gueant, a former secretary general of the Elysee, was also interviewed as a “free suspect”.

French newspaper Le Monde has seen documents detailing the focus of the investigators questioning around a lunch attended by Sarkozy, Platini, the current Emir of Qatar, Tamim Ben Hamad Al-Thani, and Sheikh Hamad Ben Jassem, then prime minister and foreign minister of Qatar. According to government archives, Claude Guéant and Sophie Dion also participated in this lunch, held 10 days before the vote for the 2022 World Cup.

There is discrepancy over whether Dion (who has ties to Qatar) or Guéant were actually at the lunch and privy to the conversations. Platini maintains that he had already told Sarkozy – who was lobbying him to vote for Qatar – that he would vote for Qatar, though it is understood by Le Monde he had originally intended to vote for the US.

Questions had also centred on the sale of PSG to the Qatar Sports Investments fund in June 2011, eight months after the lunch, for €76 million. Platini had been opposed to the acquisition but the club’s American hedge fund owners were represented in France by Sébastien Bazin, a friend of Sarkozy.

Further questions were asked about beIN Sports, a subsidiary of the Qatari group Al-Jazira, that launched in June 2012 and was then headed by Nasser Al-Khelaïfi, the current president of PSG, and an alleged agreement made between FIFA with the Al-Jazeera group, three weeks before the 2010 allocation vote, that a bonus of €100 million would be paid if Qatar won the vote.

In December 2017 Platini was heard as a witness in the investigation while as the same time his homes in Saint-Cloud (Hauts-de-Seine) and near Nyon, were simultaneously searched. In addition, his Parisian bank accounts were examined. “This custody is the collateral effect, felt as unfair by Mr. Platini, of a case that is completely beyond him and to which he is completely alien,” said his lawyer William Bourdon to Le Monde.

Unfair or not, the French have raised issues that have never been satisfactorily answered but which many had hoped had been buried.

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