Australia’s failed bid to host the 2022 World Cup has taken another turn, with former UEFA president Michel Platini detained for questioning in France over the awarding of the tournament to Qatar.
Confirming a report by online news publication Mediapart, a judicial official said Platini was taken into custody on Tuesday as part of the investigation into the controversial awarding of the tournament.
The French football great, who won the Ballon d’Or as the world’s best player in 1983, 1984 and 1985, was detained at the Anti-Corruption Office of the Judicial Police outside Paris.
Platini, who has always maintained his innocence, was elected as UEFA president in 2007 and served until 2015, when he was banned by the FIFA Ethics Committee for a series of breaches.
He has been banned from all football activity since 2015.
Qatar beat bids from USA, Australia, South Korea and Japan in 2010, as the world body FIFA announced a switch of dates for the tournament from the traditional northern summer period to the northern winter to allow play in more moderate temperatures.
The news comes as France hosts the Women’s World Cup until July 7, and hours before the Matildas face their final group match against Jamaica at 5am on Wednesday.
Claude Gueant, the former secretary-general of the Elysee palace under former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, was also questioned by investigators as part of the probe but was not detained.
French financial prosecutors have been investigating the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and previously questioned former FIFA president Sepp Blatter.
France’s financial prosecutor services opened the investigation on grounds of private corruption, criminal association, influence peddling and benefiting from influence peddling relating to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which were awarded to Russia and Qatar, respectively.
Much intrigue has centred on 63-year-old Platini’s decision to vote for Qatar.
Blatter, who was FIFA president at the time of the vote in 2010, blamed Platini for backing out of a secret “gentleman’s agreement” to award the 2022 tournament to the United States.
Platini told the Associated Press in 2015 that he “might have told” American officials he would vote for the US bid.
But he changed his mind after a November 2010 meeting, hosted by then-president Sarkozy at his official residence in Paris with Qatar’s crown prince – now Emir – Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.
Platini has long insisted that the meeting did not influence his vote less than two weeks later.
“Sarkozy never asked me to vote for Qatar, but I knew what would be good,” he told AP.
But Blatter claimed in a 2015 interview with the Financial Times that Platini told him before the World Cup vote: “I am no longer in your picture because I have been told by the head of state that we should consider the situation of France.”
Both Platini and Blatter were toppled from their positions of power at the top of soccer in 2015.
Platini was banned by FIFA for financial misconduct in relation to a $US2 million ($2.9 million) payment authorised by Blatter – a suspension due to expire in October.
He is fighting to clear his name at the European Court of Human Rights having previously lost his case before a FIFA appeals panel, the Court of Arbitration for Sport and Switzerland’s Supreme Court.
Qatar’s methods to bring the World Cup to the Middle East for the first time have been subject to investigations by FIFA.