Police have carried out raids at the French rugby federation headquarters today amid an investigation into an alleged conflict of interest involving federation president Bernard Laporte.
A person with direct knowledge of the investigation told The Associated Press that the national financial prosecutor’s office ordered the police searches at the national centre of rugby in Marcoussis, outside Paris, where the France squad is preparing for the Six Nations.
Laporte’s place of residence was also raided, the source said.
Last month, French sports minister Laura Flessel gave justice officials the conclusions of an investigation into Laporte, who has denied accusations that he pressured the French federation’s appeals board to reduce sanctions against Top 14 club Montpellier, which is owned by his close friend, Mohad Altrad.
Following a three-month investigation, the French sports ministry said Laporte contacted the appeal commission’s president on June 30 and stressed that the phone call resulted in a change of decision from commission members.
Montpellier’s €70,000 fine was reduced to €20,000 and a one-game stadium ban was cancelled after Laporte’s intercession.
Prosecutors have now decided to open a formal investigation that could lead to Laporte being handed preliminary charges.
According to L’Equipe newspaper, a dozen police officers conducted the raids. The French federation did not immediately answer a message from the AP seeking comment.
Altrad, a Syrian-born French billionaire, also sealed a partnership with the French federation to become the first shirt sponsor of the Tricolors. Earlier this month, the French federation said its ethical committee considered the new sponsorship deal signed with construction equipment group Altrad did not cause a conflict of interest.
The five-year contract is expected to yield €35m for amateur rugby. The Altrad group was the sole bidder.