By Jonathan Copping, Lawyer, Stone King, London, UK
The former UEFA President, Michel Platini, was detained in Paris as part of a French investigation into the decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.
The investigation was opened by the Parquet National Financier (PNF), which is responsible in France for law enforcement against serious financial crime. It is believed that the PNF is investigating potential private corruption, criminal conspiracy and influence peddling and trading in influence regarding the 2010 vote in favour of Qatar.
The detention of Platini does not mean that he has been arrested; rather a detention under French law is generally for a technical reason to maintain confidentiality of the interview.
It has been reported in the French media that the main reason for the PNF investigation is a meeting which took place on 23 November 2010 between Platini, former French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, and Tamin al-Thani, the current Emir of Qatar. The meeting took place less than two weeks before the FIFA vote for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Platini has publicly acknowledged that the meeting took place and has stated that he understood that Sarkozy wanted him to cast his vote for Qatar, although his position is that he was not influenced to do so by Sarkozy. At the time of the meeting, it is believed that individuals in Qatar were interested in buying Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), the football club supported by Sarkozy. Qatar Sports Investments, a subsidiary of the Qatar Investment Authority, became the majority shareholder of PSG in June 2011 and since then PSG has gone on a significant spending spree to manoeuvre itself into being one of the top clubs in the world. PSG has spent in excess of £1bn on player transfers over eight years, including €222 million on Neymar and a reported €145million on Kylian Mbappe.
In relation to the meeting on 23 November 2010, Platini has stated:
“I knew Sarkozy wanted the people from Qatar to buy PSG. I understood that Sarkozy supported the candidature of Qatar. But he never asked me, or to vote for Russia [for 2018]. He knows my personality. I always vote for what is good for football. Not for myself, not for France.”
According to former FIFA President, Sepp Blatter, Platini told him that he had changed his vote from the USA to Qatar and knew of a further three European FIFA executive committee members who had changed their votes to Qatar.
Platini has consistently been dogged by rumours of corruption.
In 2012, Platini’s son joined a company owned by Qatar Sports Investments, as chief executive. Platini has always denied he was involved with the appointment or that there was a conflict of interest.
In October 2015, Platini was suspended for three months from any football-related activity and during that period, on 21 December, Platini was found guilty of ethics violations and barred from sport until 2023.
It is nearly 9 years since the 2022 World Cup was awarded to Qatar and investigations are still taking place into the decision.
Whilst no evidence has been uncovered to directly link corruption with the decision to award Qatar the World Cup and the 2014 report prepared by Michael Garcia into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar cleared both nations of wrongdoing, a significant number of high-ranking FIFA members were charged and found guilty of various financial crimes, including wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and racketeering conspiracy.
It will be interesting to see what happens next in this sad saga which has tarnished the ‘beautiful game’!
Jonathan Copping may be contacted by e-mail at ‘JonathanCopping@stoneking.co.uk’