KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- France has followed the example of judicial authorities in Switzerland and Germany in launching a formal investigation into the awarding of World Cup hosting rights by international governing body FIFA.
The Swiss Attorney-General’s Office is overseeing an inquiry into the awards of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively by the executive committee of FIFA in December 2010; Swiss and German investigators are scrutinising the circumstances around the award of the 2006 finals in Germany.
Now a French financial prosecutor, according to a report in Le Monde, has opened a preliminary inquiry into the 2018 and 2022 tournaments.
Sepp Blatter, the now-disgraced and banned former president of FIFA, was reportedly interviewed in Switzerland by French agents last week.
Blatter has publicly ‘fingered’ Frenchman Michel Platini, a former vice-president of FIFA and head of European governing body UEFA, as having played a key role in Qatar’s 2022 victory ahead of the United States.
Last week Blatter told journalists from the international agencies that he had heard nothing lately from the Swiss authorities nor from his United States lawyers concerning the FIFAGate corruption process. He made no mention of French interest in opening a new line of inquiry.
The Swiss public prosecutor’s office has reported been paying particular attention to “152 suspicious financial movements” believe to have concerned some of the 12 members of the exco who voted in December 2010 and have since been banned or have quit football or – in the case of Argentinian Julio Grondona – died.
Platini, who is serving a four-year ban for accepting a “disloyal payment” from FIFA on Blatter’s authorisation in spring 2011, has not been interviewed by investigators.
Controversy has surrounded his role ever since it emerged that the former France captain attended a lunch at the Elysee Palace on November 23, 2010, at the invitation of President Nicolas Sarkozy. Also present was the current Emir of Qatar, Tamim Al-Thani.
Platini has said that he understood Sarkozy wanted him to vote for Qatar but that he had not received a direct request.
In the past Platini has told this writer that he would, in any case, have made up his own mind and could not have been influenced by Sarkozy.