BERLIN — A high-profile former European soccer executive was released from custody on Wednesday, one day after he was detained to be questioned over how Qatar was granted the 2022 World Cup in 2010.
Michel Platini, the former president of the influential European soccer governing body in Europe (UEFA), was summoned to testify in an investigation by France’s Anti-Corruption Office of the Judicial Police, France’s Le Monde newspaper and media outlet Mediapart separately reported on Tuesday.
“I arrived and was immediately taken into custody. It hurts. It hurts for everything I can think of, everything I’ve done. It hurts, it hurts. But after all, they did their job and then we tried to answer all the questions,” Platini said after his release, according to the Associated Press.
Investigators are seeking to answer whether illegal activities facilitated Qatar’s successful bid in 2010 to host the 2022 World Cup, including the question of whether French government officials were involved in any such efforts at the time.
One former adviser to former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, Sophie Dion, was reportedly also placed in custody for questioning over bribery accusations, according to Le Monde. Mediapart identified Claude Guéant, a former top aide to Sarkozy who also served as interior minister, as another individual questioned over the allegations, although Guéant was not arrested.
Le Monde reported that French investigators are “interested, in particular, in a lunch organized on 23 November 2010 at the Elysee,” referring to the French president’s official residence. The lunch, the paper reported, was attended by Sarkozy, Platini and Qatari officials.
Initially, Qatar was considered to have almost no chance to win the bid. One of the reasons for skepticism was that Qatar’s hot temperatures could pose major challenges.
Criticism of the decision to surprisingly select Qatar and questions over how it came about mounted in the following years.
Disgraced former FIFA president Sepp Blatter later upped the stakes by suggesting that Sarkozy may have played a role in helping Qatar win the bid in 2010. Sarkozy served as president from May 2007 until May 2012.
“Qatar won thanks to the intervention of high-level politicians in France. That’s known and proven,” Blatter told French TV in 2017, referring to Sarkozy. Blatter had openly advocated in favor of the United States as host.
After the 2010 decision, Platini denied the existence of a deal with Sarkozy to swing the vote in Qatar’s favor.
“Sarkozy never asked me to vote for Qatar, but I knew what would be good,” Platini told the Associated Press four years ago.
As the former captain of France’s national team, he gradually rose through the ranks to become UEFA president in 2007 and was believed to be Blatter’s likely successor, but his career in the organization ended after a committee investigated him for a number of ethics violations in 2015. Even though Platini was cleared of corruption allegations at the time, the committee found him guilty of other breaches that included “disloyal payment.” In 2011, Blatter, then president of the international governing body of association soccer (FIFA), transferred about $2 million to Platini. Neither of them could fully explain the purpose of that transfer.
The disclosure of the 2011 payment ultimately led to the downfall of Platini — who had also been tarnished by accusations of having facilitated Qatar’s selection for the 2022 World Cup — and to the end of Blatter’s career.