France opens formal inquiry into awarding of 2022 World Cup to Qatar

Allegations of bribery and corruption under new phase of investigation

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - JULY 25:  FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter and UEFA President Michel Platini look on during the Team Seminar ahead of the Preliminary Draw of the 2018 FIFA World Cup at the Corinthia Hotel on July 25, 2015 in Saint Petersburg, Russia.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

A formal judicial inquiry has been opened in France into the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.

It follows three years of preliminary investigations by French authorities over whether a private dinner between leading officials and Qatari bid backers influenced the bidding process.

The World Cup 2022 vote was held nine days after the dinner at the Elysee Palace, hosted by then French president Nicolas Sarkozy, and included Qatar’s then crown prince Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al Thani, now the Emir as the country undertakes preparations for the tournament.

Former Uefa boss Michel Platini has been accused of switching his vote in favour of the Qatar bid following the meal where it is alleged potential lucrative trade deals between France and the country were discussed.

The former French footballer was interviewed by officials in June. Mr Platini has denied the claims and said that he voted in the interests of football development.

Sepp Blatter, the disgraced former head of Fifa, is currently suspended from football for six years over a an alleged secret $2 million payment to Platini, just months after the award of the tournament.

He has said he is “at the disposal” of officials to discuss it.

On Monday France’s National Public Prosecutor's Office officially opened a judicial inquiry into the vote.

It will look at suspected corruption surrounding the vote, which was held in December 2010.

The result saw Qatar triumph over the long-favoured US 14-8 in a final round of voting.

A month after the ballot, Qatar announced that it had begun testing French Dassault Rafale fighter jets for a fleet upgrade. It later agreed a $7 billion deal to buy 24 of the jets.

Fifa has said it will not be reopening its own investigation.

This is despite the sport’s global governing body publishing allegations of bribery against three people on its website linked to the 2022 World Cup.

As part of supporting evidence in a disciplinary report posted last month, Fifa published that three former top soccer officials - Brazil’s Ricardo Teixeira, Paraguay’s Nicolas Leoz and Argentina’s Julio Grondona - were allegedly due to receive payments for votes over the selection of Qatar.

It was part of evidence by Fifa's ethic's committee to justify a lifetime ban on Teixeira over taking bribes for TV and marketing deals.