Former Uefa president Michel Platini has been taken into custody as part of a French corruption investigation relating to the decision to award the 2022 football World Cup to Qatar.
The former French football player led the sport’s European governing body from 2007 to 2015, “and was the heir apparent to take over from [world governing body] 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” says CNN.
Platini had been serving a four-year ban from football since 2015, over a $2 million (£1.5 million) “disloyal payment” he received from Blatter.
The Guardian says his detention “represents the first substantial public move” in an investigation into the 2022 decision opened two years ago by France’s Parquet National Financier, which is responsible for law enforcement against serious financial crime.
According to judicial sources, the PNF is investigating possible “private corruption”, “criminal conspiracy” and “influence peddling and trading in influence” over the December 2010 vote to award the World Cup to Qatar.
BBC sports editor Dan Roan says “it is understood [questions] will focus on a lunch Platini attended in Paris just days before that hugely controversial vote in 2010, with the then French president Nicolas Sarkozy at his official residence and the Qatari head of state”.
“It has long been suspected that the prospect of important bilateral trade deals between the two nations, and the subsequent Qatari takeover of Paris St-Germain may have been used as leverage to get Sarkozy’s support” he adds.
The Sun says that “in news that will rock football in France” Claude Gueant, a close adviser to former French president Nicolas Sarkosy, has also been questioned as a “free suspect”, while another adviser to Sarkozy during his presidency, Sophie Dion, has been detained.
“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,” says CNN.
Suspicion of foul play over the decision have long dogged Qatar and in 2015 the US Justice Department brought racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering charges against several senior figures within Fifa.
Concerns over the summer heat in the Gulf state, where temperatures can top 50C, forced Fifa to move the tournament to winter for the first time ever, a move which will seriously impact European domestic leagues. Meanwhile human rights groups have criticsed the Qatari government’s record, its ban on homosexuality and its safety record which has seen a record number of workers involved in stadium construction killed.
But “given how much time has now passed since the 2010 vote, and how much has changed at Fifa, there seems no real prospect that this latest development could affect Qatar’s status as hosts, even if Platini is charged,” says Roan.
It means to the tournament – the first World Cup to be held in the Middle East – is set to go ahead as planned in November 2022.