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Michel Platini questioning is "in no way an arrest"

Michel Platini questioning is
© Reuters
The 63-year-old was the president of UEFA until 2015.

Former UEFA president Michel Platini has denied being arrested after he was detained for questioning by French police over the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.

Platini, who has never denied voting for Qatar but has always rejected any claims of wrongdoing, was detained in a suburb of Paris on Tuesday morning.

France’s financial prosecutor’s office, the Parquet National Financier, has been investigating the December 2010 decision to stage football’s biggest tournament in the small but wealthy Gulf state since 2016.

Michel Platini was the head of UEFA until 2015
Michel Platini was the head of UEFA until 2015 (John Walton/PA).

A statement released on behalf of the 63-year-old Platini said he was cooperating fully with authorities and had no reason “to reproach himself”.

“Michel Platini, after being heard in the same investigation in open court last year, is now questioned under police custody for technical reasons,” read the statement.

It said his lawyer, Mr William Bourdon, “strongly asserted that this is in no way an arrest”, but rather Platini was heard “as a witness” by the investigators to ensure those being questioned could not consult with each other during the process.

It added: “Michel Platini expressed himself serenely and precisely, answering all the questions, including those on the award conditions of Euro 2016, and provided useful explanations.”

It also said he had “nothing to reproach himself for” and was “absolutely confident”.

The 2022 World Cup will be staged in Qatar
The 2022 World Cup will be staged in Qatar (Mike Egerton/PA)

Qatar beat bids from Australia, Japan, South Korea and the United States in a vote by the executive committee of world football’s governing body FIFA, but more than half of that 22-man panel have now been accused of receiving bribes.

Platini was head of European football’s governing body until 2015 when he was handed an eight-year ban over ethics breaches that was later reduced to four years on appeal.

The ban expires this October and he has previously suggested he intends to return to football politics.

Sepp Blatter was in charge of FIFA for 17 years
Sepp Blatter was in charge of FIFA for 17 years (Adam Davy/PA).

Platini and former FIFA boss Sepp Blatter were banned for eight years by FIFA’s ethics committee in December 2015, although a FIFA appeal body reduced that to six years, for a “disloyal payment” of £1.5million paid by Blatter to Platini.

The pair then made separate appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which upheld Blatter’s sanction but cut a further two years off Platini’s. Blatter has always denied any wrongdoing.

The French authorities have also detained Sophie Dion, a former adviser of ex-French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and questioned Claude Gueant, Sarkozy’s ex-chief of staff.

Sarkozy’s support for Qatar World Cup bid has been the subject of considerable speculation for several years and it is understood the French authorities want to know what promises were made at a lunch at the French premier’s Elysee Palace on November 23, 2010 – 10 days before the FIFA vote.

Michel Platini is being questioned by French police
Michel Platini is being questioned by French police (Niall Carson/PA)

At that lunch were Platini, Sarkozy, the Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad al Thani and Qatar’s former prime minister and foreign minister Sheikh Hamad Ben Jassim.

It is no secret that Sarkozy was eager to foster close economic links with Qatar, but the investigation is also looking into the June 2011 deal that saw Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund the French leader’s favourite football team, Paris St Germain, and the subsequent launch of BeIN Sports, the Doha-based media company run by PSG’s chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi. Al-Khelaifi has denied any wrongdoing.

Platini had a glittering playing career, winning the 1984 European Championship with France and also league titles in France and Italy with St Etienne and Juventus. He won the Ballon d’Or in three successive seasons from 1983 to 1985.

UEFA declined to comment on Platini’s detention when contacted by Press Association Sport.

A FIFA spokesperson said: “FIFA reiterates its full commitment to co-operating with the authorities in any given country of the world where investigations are taking place in connection with football activities.”

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