Platini released in 2022 WC probe, denies wrongdoing

NANTERRE, France: The banned ex-Uefa chief Michel Platini was released from custody on Wednesday after hours of questioning in connection with a criminal investigation into the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.
The French football legend who led European football’s governing body from 2007 to 2015 was held on Tuesday by French anti-corruption police investigating alleged corruption in the 2010 vote to award the competition to the Gulf state.
He denied wrongdoing and a statement from his representatives said the facts of the case were “unknown to him.”
In the early hours of Wednesday, Platini’s lawyer William Bourdon said he had been released without charge, adding that there has been “a lot of fuss over nothing”.
Bourdon said his client was innocent of all charges and that he had been questioned on “technical grounds.”
Platini, 63, looked drawn as he left the police anti-corruption office in Nanterre in the western Paris suburbs.
“It was very long, given the number of questions, it was obviously always going to be long, since they asked me questions over Euro 2016, the World Cup in Russia, the World Cup in Qatar, Paris Saint-Germain, Fifa,” Platini told reporters on Wednesday as he left the police station where he had been detained. “I replied to all the questions calmly, whilst still not knowing why I was there,” he added.
France’s Office of the Financial Crimes Prosecutor (PNF) opened a preliminary investigation in 2016 into allegations of corruption, conspiracy and influence peddling surrounding the Qatar vote and also the awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia.
Platini’s representatives said in a statement: “He has done absolutely nothing wrong and affirms that he is totally unrelated to the facts (of the case) which are unknown to him.”
Buying votes
Lawyer Bourdon denied that the three-time Ballon d’Or winner had been placed under arrest by the police, as first reported, saying that he had been questioned “as a witness”.
Claude Gueant, Sarkozy’s erstwhile chief of staff and former interior minister, was also called in for questioning on Tuesday by France’s Anti-Corruption Office of the Judicial Police.
The decision to award Qatar football’s highest-profile tournament ultimately sparked a wider fraud probe that led to the overthrow of the then Fifa president Sepp Blatter and Platini and the arrest of a series of senior Fifa figures. Platini led Uefa until 2015 when he was banned from football for four years for ethics violations including receiving a two-million Swiss francs (1.8 million euros, $2 million) payment from Blatter, who was suspended for six years.
Qatar has been accused of buying votes in its bid to stage the World Cup and a subsequent report by US independent investigator Michael Garcia unearthed an array of suspect financial dealings, many linked to Sandro Rosell, the ex-Barcelona president who served as a consultant for Qatar.
Blatter said he was “completely surprised” at Platini’s questioning by police, adding that “this won’t help him” coming as it does months before the end of his ban.
“With this story resurfacing at a time when the international media are in France for the Women’s World Cup and three months before the end of his suspension it’s astonishing and fodder for the media,” Blatter said. — AFP