Bernard Laporte, Mohed Altrad and three other people taken into police custody on Tuesday morning in France were released on Wednesday night after two days of questioning by the fraud squad.  

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Laporte, the president of the French Federation of Rugby and World Rugby vice-chairman, is suspected of using his influence to secure Montpellier, the club owned by Altrad, a more favourable outcome when they faced sanctions in 2017. 

The French rugby boss has always defended himself from any intervention in favour of Montpellier, even if he admitted to having telephoned the chairman of the commission, Jean-Daniel Simonet.

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Ministry of Sports investigators have also established in a report sent to justice that the decisions of the commission were allegedly modified between June 29 and 30, 2017. Initially, the appeal commission would have decided to confirm the sanctions announced by the League (LNR), a €70,000 fine and a closed-door match, before moving to a €20,000 fine and a stay of execution on the closed-door match. 

 Altrad, the Montpellier owner who is now also jersey sponsor of the France national team, was taken into custody along with the general manager of the World Cup 2023, Claude Atcher, and two senior officials of the French Federation, vice-president Serge Simon and its international relations manager Nicolas Hourquet. 

According to rugbyrama.fr, it is now up to the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF) to decide on the follow-up in an investigation opened in France in 2017 to examine in particular the links between Laporte and Altrad. 

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The PNF can decide to continue its preliminary investigation, to open a judicial investigation entrusted to investigating judges or to put an end to the investigations. “The investigation is nearing completion, no decision has been taken at this stage,” said the PNF on Wednesday evening. 

The situation threatens to derail the FFR re-election campaign of Laporte, the 56-year-old who is going to the polls on the first weekend of October in his bid to retain the presidency in a battle with Florian Grill.

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