Former UEFA president’s questioning deepens Qatar-World Cup scandal
TUNIS - Former UEFA President Michel Platini was detained for questioning in a criminal investigation regarding Qatar’s winning the right to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Platini, a former French footballer who was banned from FIFA in 2015 for ethics violations, is accused of helping orchestrate a deal through which Qatar was awarded hosting rights for the 2022 tournament.
Platini was questioned by France's Office of the Financial Crimes Prosecutor before being released. The office is investigating allegations of corruption, conspiracy and influence peddling that have implicated top officials, including former French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Sarkozy and Platini were reported to have met at the Elysee Palace in November 2010 with Qatari Prince Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, who is now the country's emir, a week before Qatar won a vote to host the 2022 tournament.
That decision, putting the small Gulf emirate on course to be the first Arab country to host the competition, shocked many football fans, given Qatar’s sweltering summer temperatures, historically poor football performance and substandard infrastructure.
Former FIFA President Sepp Blatter said the meeting in Paris influenced top FIFA representatives, including Platini, to vote for Qatar over the United States, which was also seeking the bid.
Platini denied any wrongdoing and called Blatter’s version of events a “tissue of lies.”
A statement from Platini’s representatives said: “He has done absolutely nothing wrong and affirms that he is totally unrelated to the facts (of the case) that are unknown to him.”
Platini said the questioning was “very long” but that he had “replied to all the questions calmly, while still not knowing why I was there.”
“It hurts,” he added. “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 is recognised as one of the world’s greatest footballers, having won the Ballon d'Or three times and led the French national team to a European championship and deep into the World Cup twice.
However, his reputation took a hit when he was embroiled in the investigation into Qatar’s awarding of the 2022 World Cup.
Qatar has been accused of offering bribes to secure hosting rights for the World Cup. Reports have detailed a series of suspicious financial ties between the country and international football officials.
Doha has also come under fire for subjecting migrant workers building World Cup stadiums to “slave-like labour” and dangerous conditions. More than 1,400 migrant workers from Nepal reportedly died while working on the stadiums, with their cases often uninvestigated by Qatari authorities.
Rights activists repeatedly urged Doha to protect workers’ safety and rights and criticised a labour system they say is fundamentally abusive.
“Time is running out if the Qatari authorities want to deliver a legacy we can all cheer -- namely a labour system that ends the abuse and misery inflicted upon so many migrant workers every day,” said Stephen Cockburn, deputy director of Global Issues at Amnesty International.
The scandals have led to calls for Qatar to be stripped of its hosting rights for the tournament, which is to begin in November 2022.