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Sunday, June 13, 2021

Official: France may investigate Qatar’s 2022 World Cup bid

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Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

French authorities said they are considering launching an investigation into Qatar being awarded the right to host the 2022 World Cup.

Speaking on the French radio station Europe 1 yesterday, the country’s financial prosecutor Eliane Houlette fielded a question about launching such a probe, and answered by saying the idea remains a possibility.

“We are thinking about it, we have several elements that encourage us to investigate,” Reuters reported Houlette as saying.

Her comments come amid allegations that senior French officials may have pressured FIFA into choosing Qatar.

Former UEFA President Michel Platini would likely be among the figures examined, but the Frenchman not be the sole focus of such an inquiry, Houlette said.

“If there is an investigation, probably the role of Mr. Platini will be essential, but the investigation will not be focused on Mr. Platini,” she said.

French authorities can investigate if they have reason to believe that their own nationals are involved in a case, or if a case or unlawful elements of the bid took place in France.

Since being awarded hosting rights in 2010, Qatar has denied allegations of wrongdoing concerning the bid. So far, there has been no strong evidence to challenge such claims.

Allegations

Platini is the former president of the European governing body of football.

In December 2015, following an investigation by FIFA’s ethics committee, he and ex-FIFA President Sepp Blatter were banned from all football-related activity for eight years.

Platini’s ban was this month reduced to four years by the Court of Arbitration in Sport.

Following the ruling, Platini said he would step down from UEFA.

Sepp Blatter
Sepp Blatter

At the time of last year’s FIFA probe, the pair were cleared of corruption claims, but were found guilty of a number of other breaches, including a conflict of interest and dereliction of duty.

At issue was an alleged payment of 2 million Swiss Francs (QR7.3 million) from Blatter to Platini in 2011, which was claimed to be back-pay for previous work, but no written contract was submitted to support this.

FIFA is at the center of separate investigations taking place by authorities in the US and Switzerland amid allegations of corruption in the organization.

The Swiss Attorney General launched criminal investigations last May following the arrest of seven top FIFA officials in Zurich on behalf of the US Department of Justice.

And last December, US Attorney General Loretta Lynch revealed details of criminal charges against 16 current and former Fifa officials for “sustained abuse of their positions for financial gain,” the FT reported at the time.

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