Police have raided the headquarters of the French Rugby Federation (FFR), as part of an investigation into alleged favouritism and conflict of interest involving the organisation’s president Bernard Laporte and Montpellier’s billionaire owner Mohed Altrad.
Sports newspaper L’Equipe reported that about a dozen investigators had searched FFR offices at Marcoussis for several hours on Tuesday morning. It was later confirmed that officers involved in the inquiry had also attended Laporte’s Paris home at the same time.
The investigation was launched after French sports minister Laura Flessel passed a file to the national financial prosecutor’s office, France’s anti-fraud police, in early December following a departmental investigation.
The FFR said in a brief statement: “Following the referral to the public prosecutor by the General Inspectorate of Services of the Ministry of Sports, a search was carried out which is the first obligatory act of any financial investigation. This does not in any way determine the outcome of the current investigation.”
Altrad’s home has also been searched, according to reports.
Former France coach Laporte, who was also sports minister between 2007 and 2009 in Nicolas Sarkozy’s government, has repeatedly denied claims he tried to influence the FFR’s appeals board to reduce sanctions against Montpellier, for allowing fans to display banners protesting against the proposed merger between Racing 92 and Stade Francais last April.
An original sanction of €70,000 fine and a one-match stadium ban was reduced to a fine of €20,000.
When the scandal broke in late August, Laporte admitted speaking to the board’s chairman, but insisted he was only offering “political perspective”.
The scandal prompted a number of resignations from members of the board, leading to a backlog of appeals by Top 14 and ProD2 players against disciplinary decisions.
Last year, the Altrad Group became the first shirt sponsor of the French national teams. It was partner in France’s bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup – and earlier this month signed a €35million deal to sponsor the shirts of the national team until 2023, rising – according to the businessman – to €40million with bonuses.
The Montpellier owner said in an interview published in Midi Olympique on Monday that Laporte’s election as FFR president meant a contract that would have seen him take over as head coach of the Herault side had to be ripped up.
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