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Former soccer chief detained as part of 2022 World Cup investigation

PARIS — Former UEFA president Michel Platini was questioned by police Tuesday after being arrested in a corruption probe of the vote that gave the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, a judicial official said.

Confirming a report by online news publication Mediapart, the official said Platini was placed in custody on Tuesday morning when he was summoned at the Anti-Corruption Office of the Judicial Police outside Paris. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation.

Platini, a former France soccer great, can either be released or formally charged after questioning ends.

Also detained Tuesday was Sophie Dion, a former sports adviser of Nicolas Sarkozy when he was French president, the judicial official said. Claude Gueant, the former secretary general of the Elysee under Sarkozy, was quizzed by investigators as a witness and not detained.

Bidding process probed

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.

FIFA said it is aware of Platini’s situation but declined to comment further on his case.

Platini’s lawyer and adviser did not immediately answer messages from The Associated Press seeking comments.

Much intrigue has centered on 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 AP in 2015 that he “might have told” American officials that he would vote for the United States bid. However, he changed his mind after a November 2010 meeting, hosted by then-President Nicolas Sarkozy at his official residence in Paris and Qatar’s crown prince, now Emir, Tamin bin Hamad al-Thani.

Platini has long insisted that the meeting did not influence his vote for Qatar less than two weeks later.

“Sarkozy never asked me to vote for Qatar, but I knew what would be good,” he told the AP in 2015.

But Blatter claimed in a 2015 interview with the Financial Times that Platini told him ahead of 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.”

Toppled in 2015

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 $2 million payment authorized by Blatter — a suspension due to expire in October.

Qatar’s methods to bring the World Cup to the Middle East for the first time have been subject to investigations by FIFA. American attorney Michael Garcia found that some of Qatar’s conduct “may not have met the standards” required by FIFA but concluded there was no “evidence of any improper activity by the bid team.”

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AP Global Soccer Writer Rob Harris in Nice, France, contributed to this report.

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