Michel Platini, the former head of European football association UEFA, was detained for questioning by French police on Tuesday over the awarding of the 2022 World Cup soccer tournament to Qatar, a judicial source told Reuters.
Platini’s lawyer, William Bourdon, said his client was innocent of all charges and that he was being questioned on “technical grounds”.
An AFP report, however, said Platini had been arrested.
France’s national financial prosecutor’s office, which specialises in investigating economic crimes and corruption, has been leading a probe into the awarding of the 2022 tournament to the Gulf emirate since 2016.
It is looking into possible offences including private corruption, conspiracy and influence peddling.
A statement issued on behalf of Bourdon and Platini said: “His lawyer, William Bourdon, would like to state as strongly as possible that this is not an arrest, but rather being heard as a witness by the investigators within a framework preventing those being questioned and heard from consulting each other during the process.”
Officials with Qatar’s World Cup organising committee said they had no immediate comment.
Fifa, the world governing body of soccer, said it was aware of the reports concerning Platini, who is a former Fifa vice-president.
Fifa “reiterates its full commitment to cooperating with the authorities in any given country of the world where investigations are taking place in connection with football activities,” it said.
The decision in December 2010 to award the World Cup to Qatar surprised many given the lack of potential local audiences for the games, the extremely hot summer weather, and the poor performance of the country’s national squad. It will be the first Arab state to host the competition.
The newspaper Le Monde reported that prosecutors were particularly looking into a lunch hosted by France’s then President, Nicolas Sarkozy, nine days before the vote that awarded the cup to Qatar. Platini and Sheikh Tamim Ben Hamad Al Thani, who was Qatar’s Prime Minister and is now the country’s emir, were guests at the lunch.
As a player in the 1970s and 1980s, Platini was a prolific striker. He played in three World Cups, captaining the national squad to the semi-finals in 1982 and 1986.