Michel Platini, the former Uefa president, has been arrested over the controversial vote which handed the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. The former France captain, who was part of the Fifa tournament organising committee, was taken into custody by French officers as part of an investigation by the Anti-Corruption Office of the Judicial Police (OCLCIFF).
The arrest comes five years after the Daily Telegraph disclosed how Platini, 63, held meetings with the disgraced former Asian football official Mohammed Bin Hammam before the vote.
Platini was head of European football from January 2007, when he replaced the late Lennart Johansson, but stepped down in 2015 after being banned from football for six years, which was later reduced to four after appealing the sanction to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The Frenchman was arrested on Tuesday morning in Nanterre, a western suburb of Paris, according to French investigative outlet Mediapart. His ban by a Fifa ethics committee expired in March this year, but investigators leading the fight against corruption are examining how Qatar won the right to host the next World Cup.
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.
Platini was on previously part of the Fifa World Cup organising committee. He also joined the Fifa executive committee in 2002 until he received his ban. 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.
A source close to Platini said at the time that he had met the Qatar football official for breakfast in a hotel in Switzerland, adding that the two men had previously met 30 to 50 times, as both sat on the decision-making committee for Fifa. However, the source insisted that Mr Platini had not met with the heads of states of countries vying to host the 2018 or the 2022 World Cups. President Putin invited Platini to a meeting, but Platini turned it down.
In a letter to the Telegraph, Platini said that he found it “astonishing” that “conversations with a fellow member of the Fifa Executive Committee could suddenly be transformed into a matter of state.”
“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.”
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 Qatar owned sports company. Platini has always said that his son’s role was unconnected to his vote.
Qatar has previously insisted Bin Hammam was not involved in its bid and denies all allegations of wrong-doing. Platini had previously called for the vote on where to hold the 2022 World Cup to be rerun if corruption is found.
The Telegraph also revealed that Jack Warner, a former member of Fifa’s decision-making body Exco, received $1.6million from Kemco, a Qatari company connected to Bin Hammam. Warner and his family declined to comment when approached by the Telegraph over the alleged payment. He subsequently quit football and, in 2015, was banned for life by Fifa.
Platini had been widely expected to vote for the United States. He confirmed in 2015 that he “might have told” American officials that he would vote for them. However, he appeared to change his mind after a November 2010 meeting, hosted by then-President Nicolas Sarkozy at his official residence in Paris and Qatar’s crown prince, now Emir, Tamin bin Hamad al-Thani.
He has subsequently denied claims that his vote for Qatar was at the request of Sarkozy. “Sarkozy never asked me to vote for Qatar, but I knew what would be good,” he said.
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.
The multi-million pound investigation into potential corruption at FIfa has already questioned former Fifa president Sepp Blatter, who has blamed Platini for backing out of a secret “gentleman’s agreement” to award the 2022 tournament to the United States. Platini’s spokesman did not respond to an approach for comment from the Associated Press.