Ten days before seeking re-election as the main powerbroker in France rugby, Bernard Laporte was taken into custody on Tuesday morning in Paris to answer questions in the investigation into his links with the Altrad group.  

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According to rugbyrama.fr, the boss of the group, Mohed Altrad, owner of the Montpellier club and sponsor of the France national team, was also placed in police custody by the financial police, just like Claude Atcher, the boss of the World Cup 2023, and two senior officials of the federation, Serge Simon and Nicolas Hourquet.

It is alleged that Laporte is particularly suspected of having favoured Montpellier when intervening with the FFR’s appeal committee to reduce sanctions against the club at the end of June 2017.

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Laporte, the 56-year-old boss of French rugby, arrived on Tuesday morning at the premises of the Brigade for the Repression of Economic Delinquency (BRDE) to which the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF) had entrusted the investigations in 2017. Simon, the vice-president of the FFR, also presented himself to the BRDE.

The former coach France (2000-2007) who went on to become Secretary of State for Sports under Nicolas Sarkozy (2007-2009), Laporte 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.

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. 

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Three months earlier, the Altrad group, who specialise in building materials, had become the first jersey sponsor of the France XV before supporting the French candidacy in the bid to host the 2023 World Cup. The police already heard from several protagonists in 2019, in particular the three members of the FFR appeal commission who were to judge the case on June 29, 2017.

Against a backdrop of strong tensions between the LNR and the FFR, the affair spoiled Laporte’s mandate as FFR president and it now threatens to derail his re-election campaign where he is running against Florian Grill. Laporte’s lawyer Jean-Pierre Versini-Campinchi on Monday denounced the timing of his detention so close to the election.  

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