Disgraced former UEFA President Michel Platini has been taken into custody as part of a corruption investigation over the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, the French financial prosecutor’s spokesperson told CNN on Tuesday.
The ex-boss of Europe’s soccer governing body had been serving a four-year ban from the sport since 2015, over a $2 million payment he received from FIFA.
He has been brought in for questioning but has not been arrested or charged with a crime, the spokesperson said.
The former French soccer legend led UEFA from 2007 to 2015, and was the heir apparent to take over from FIFA head Sepp Blatter, until both men were swept out of the sport in the wake of the massive corruption scandal from which it is still reeling.
Platini’s interrogation by investigators again raises questions over the controversial decision to host the upcoming World Cup in Qatar, a small but wealthy Middle Eastern nation which lacks the infrastructure or sporting tradition of previous host countries. Qatari organizers have repeatedly denied allegations of wrongdoing in the bidding process.
Whispers of foul play over the decision have been heard ever since the country was appointed hosts in 2010, and such allegations have been made more openly after the US Justice Department brought racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering charges against several senior figures within FIFA in 2015.
The ensuing scandal led to investigations being opened in several countries.
Concerns over temperatures in Qatar have since forced FIFA to move the tournament to the winter for the first time ever, while watchdogs have criticized the Qatari government’s human rights record, the country’s ban on homosexuality and the welfare of workers involved in preparing stadiums for the tournament.
But calls to move the competition to a different country have so far been rebuffed. The tournament – the first World Cup to be held in the Middle East – is set to take place between 21 November and 18 December 2022, in eight locations in Qatar.
In a statement sent to CNN, Platini’s agent Jean-Christophe Alquier said the ex-official “has absolutely nothing to reproach himself for and affirms to be a complete stranger to all facts which are beyond his understanding.”
He added: “Michel Platini has spoken serenely and precisely, responded to all questions including those regarding the conditions of rewarding the EURO 2016, and has given useful explanations.”
Platini was quizzed on issues relating to the award of the 2022 World Cup, according to the French prosecutor, though Alquier’s statement suggests the 2016 tournament in France was also raised.
“FIFA is aware of today’s press reports concerning Mr. Michel Platini,” a spokesperson for the body said. “We don’t have all the details about the matter (and) we are not in a position to comment further.”
“Generally speaking, FIFA reiterates its full commitment to cooperating with the authorities in any given country of the world where investigations are taking place in connection with football activities,” the spokesperson added.