PARIS – Former UEFA president Michel Platini has been arrested on suspicion of corruption linked to a decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, court sources told EFE on Tuesday.
The ex-French international midfielder was detained at around 9:30 am local time (0730 GMT) in the western Paris of suburb Nanterre and taken to the anti-corruption office of France’s Judicial Police.
Qatar was in 2010 controversially awarded the right to host the 2022 World Cup, a decision that was announced at the same time as Russia clinching the 2018 tournament.
Platini denied any wrongdoing in a statement issued by his lawyer, saying he was being questioned “for technical reasons.”
According to the statement, his lawyer William Bourdon, “strongly asserts that this is in no way an arrest, but a hearing as a witness in the context desired by the investigators, a framework that prevents all persons heard, then confronted, cannot confer outside the procedure.”
The statement added that Platini had expressed himself “serenely and precisely,” and had answered all the questions, “including those on the conditions for the awarding of Euro 2016,” an event that has been added to the investigation.
“He has nothing to reproach himself with and claims to be totally foreign to facts the go beyond him,” the statement added. “He is absolutely confident about what’s next.”
The former France international captain, who was UEFA president from 2007 to 2015, was serving a four-year disqualification which ends in October for violating the organization’s code of ethics by accepting a fee in 2011 that was authorized by then FIFA president, the now disgraced Joseph Blatter.
The amount of the award was some 1.8 million euros for work done between 1998 and 2002.
Platini and Blatter were both cleared of corruption charges in 2015 but found guilty of a series of regulation breaches that included conflict of interest when 2 million Swiss francs were transferred from Blatter to Platini in 2011.
Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s sports adviser Sophie Dion and former secretary general of the Elysee Palace, Claude Gueant, were also reportedly asked to give testimony.
France’s National Financial Prosecutor in 2016 opened an investigation for alleged corruption in the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, for which Platini already testified as a witness in Dec. 2017.
The investigation focused on the meeting held in Nov. 2010 by Qatari authorities with Sarkozy and Platini at the Elysee Palace which was also attended by Gueant and Dion.
Platini admitted holding a meeting in secret with disgraced former football official Mohamed bin Hammam days before casting his vote for Qatar but has maintained that it did not influence his decision.
Both Platini and Blatter were overthrown from their commanding positions at the top of soccer in 2015.
Qatar’s practices in bringing the World Cup to the Middle East for the first time have been subject to FIFA investigations.