Michel Platini, the former Uefa president, has insisted his conscience was clear after he was questioned by detectives over controversies surrounding the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar and Euro 2016 to France.
The ex-France captain, who was also a vice-president of Fifa at the time, was taken into custody and quizzed along with two former aides to Nicolas Sarkozy as part of a wide-ranging investigation into football corruption by French officers.
The Anti-Corruption Office of the Judicial Police (OCLCIFF) is understood to be investigating whether the then French President had any influence in Platini’s apparent change of mind in voting for Qatar instead of United States as a host nation in 2010. Two weeks before the 2022 World Cup vote in 2010, Sarkozy hosted a lunch for Qatar’s leaders with Platini.
A spokesman for Platini, who claimed he had not been arrested but was instead “questioned under the regime of custody for technical reasons”, confirmed he was also asked about the decision to award the European Championships to France. Before the bidding process for the Euros, Platini reportedly introduced Sarkozy to every member of the decision committee in person.
The 63-year-old was taken in for questioning in Nanterre, a western suburb of Paris, early on Tuesday. Sophie Dion, Sarkozy’s then sports adviser, and Claude Gueant, the former secretary general of the Elysee, were also quizzed, according to the French newspaper Le Monde.
The three-times Ballon d’Or winner was later released without charge. Judges reportedly wanted to cross-check his testimony with that of Dion, who has previously denied taking part in the now notorious Elysee lunch with Sarkozy in 2010. French judges are also said to be keen to ascertain whether the creation of the Qatari channel beIN Sports, a subsidiary of Al-Jazeera, was discussed at the Elysee lunch.
A statement from Platini’s entourage told Le Monde that he was being detained for questioning “for purely technical reasons”. A spokesman for his lawyer, William Bourdon, said he wanted to “forcefully affirm that this is in no way an arrest but an audition of a witness in a framework chosen by investigators in order to prevent people being questioned and confronted from talking to each other outside the inquiry”.
Platini “calmly and precisely” answered “all questions, including those on the conditions of the attribution of the Euro 2016 tournament and provided useful explanations,” said the statement.
“He has done absolutely nothing wrong and affirms having nothing to do with events that go over his head. He is totally confident of what will follow.”
Platini was head of European football from January 2007, when he replaced the late Lennart Johansson, but stepped down in 2015 after being banned by Fifa for financial misconduct in relation to a £1.5 million payment. Platini’s suspension is due to expire this year.
The police swoop came five years after the Daily Telegraph disclosed how Platini held meetings with the disgraced former Asian football official Mohammed Bin Hammam before the Qatar vote.
Qatar was a shock winner in the vote for the 2022 World Cup host over South Korea, America, Australia and Japan. It was announced as host at the same time as Russia won the right to stage the 2018 tournament.
Platini had been widely expected to vote for the United States over Qatar and confirmed 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 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.
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.
The vote for Qatar took place eight months before the purchase in June 2011 of Paris-Saint-Germain – a club Sarkozy fervently supports. Platini was against the sale.
France, meanwhile, have announced several high profile deals with Qatar, which in 2015 agreed to buy 24 Dassault Aviation-built Rafale fighter jets in a €6.3billion deal.
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.
In 2016, 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.
Uefa has been contacted for comment.