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Qatar 2022: a cup brimming over with scandal

International

The 2022 World Cup, steeped in controversy, finally opened in Qatar on Sunday. All of those who, through multiple dealings and arrangements, accepted or promoted its hosting by the Gulf state, have an enormous amount to answer for over their responsibility for the consequences, notably the deaths of thousands of migrant construction workers, an environmental disaster and political scandal. Michaël Hajdenberg presents a brief analysis of what we know of the dark background to the tournament.

Kingdom of modern slavery: the plight of migrant workers preparing Qatar for World Cup

Proche et Moyen-Orient — Investigation

Forced labour, working without pay, excessive working hours in sweltering heat ... despite several reforms brought in by the emirate's authorities under pressure from human rights groups, the migrant labourers working flat-out to ensure the gas-rich state of Qatar is ready to host November's World Cup finals are still enduring appalling conditions. Rachida El Azzouzi reports from Doha on the plight of the workers just two months before the tournament kicks off.  

Crisis? What crisis? Money no object in Qatari strategy with PSG

France

With its signing of Argentine superstar Lionel Messi this summer, and its money-no-object refusal to agree the 180-million-euro transfer to Real Madrid of its French star forward Kylian Mbappé, football club Paris Saint-Germain’s Qatari owners, apparently immune to the financial effects of the Covid-19 crisis, once again demonstrated their unbridled ambitions in diplomacy through sport. As Jérôme Latta reports, the backdrop is the ever more deregulated structure of European football.

Qatar 2022: probe into World Cup award intrigued by job for Platini’s son

International — Investigation

In an ongoing judicial investigation in France into suspected corruption surrounding the awarding of the 2022 football World Cup to Qatar, evidence seized at the Paris offices of US firm Colony Capital suggests a well-remunerated post handed to Laurent Platini, son of former football star and UEFA president Michel Platini, by Qatari sovereign fund QSI may have been linked to its purchase of French football club PSG. The probe is focused on a crucial lunch meeting at the Élysée Palace in 2010 hosted by then French president Nicolas Sarkozy, and attended among others by Michel Platini and the then crown prince of Qatar. Yann Philippin unravels a complex case involving heads of state, business, diplomacy and arrangements behind closed doors.

Paris-based football star Ali Benarbia told to repay 4m euros in tax after claiming he lived in Qatar

France — Investigation

Ali Benarbia, the former Manchester City and Monaco player who became a prominent television sports pundit on French television and radio, has been told to pay back taxes of just under 4 million euros by the French tax authorities. Mediapart has learnt that the former Algerian international was paid via a fictitious company in Qatar and claimed to be living in the Middle Eastern country. In fact, he and his family were resident in Paris, tax investigators found. Yann Philippin and Matthieu Suc report.

'Thank you Nasser for your gift': when FIFA secretary general found luxury watch in his Qatar hotel room

International — Investigation

Shortly after a committee of world football governing body FIFA in February 2015 controversially recommended that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar could be played in winter, the then FIFA secretary general Jérôme Valcke secretly met with Qatari businessman Nasser al-Khelaifi, president of French football club PSG and chairman of beIN Sports, who was thanked by Valcke hours later for a gift of a watch worth 40,000 euros, according to phone text messages revealed here by Mediapart. Al-Khelaifi denies he was behind the gift. Swiss prosecutors, meanwhile, have dropped their probe of the two men over suspected bribery, which included Valcke’s free use of a luxurious villa bought by al-Khelaifi in Sardinia. Yann Philippin reports.

Judge-led French probe starts into award of 2022 football World Cup to Qatar

France — Investigation

In June 2019 Michel Platini, the former head of European football's governing body UEFA, was interviewed by police as a witness over the circumstances of the award of the 2022 football World Cup to Qatar. Two former colleagues of Nicolas Sarkozy were also questioned about a lunch hosted for Qatar's crown prince by the French president in 2010, attended by Platini, just days before the controversial vote to give the tournament to the oil and gas-rich state. Now the French financial crimes prosecution unit has launched a judicial investigation into the affair over alleged “corruption”, Mediapart has learnt. Former French football star Platini has strongly denied any wrongdoing. Yann Philippin and Antton Rouget report.

How Qatar 'bought' the right to host the 2019 World Athletics Championships

International — Investigation

Qatar promised 37.5 million dollars to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) just hours before it won the right to stage the 2019 World Athletics Championships was awarded. Some 4.5 million of this was due to be paid to the son of the IAAF president at the time, Papa Massata Diack. The IAAF says that in the end that money was never paid to Diack. Yann Philippin and Antton Rouget report on the background to the awarding of the prestigious event now taking place at Doha in Qatar –and where the athletes have been sweltering in the heat.

Boss of top French football club PSG faces questions over commission for player's agent

France — Investigation

In a confidential letter seen by Mediapart and the British daily newspaper The Guardian, the president of leading French football club PSG, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, requested the payment of a 2-million-euro commission to the agent of Argentine midfielder Javier Pastore in relation to the latter's transfer. The request was apparently made on the instructions of the current Emir of Qatar. If carried out, such a payment appears to breach both French football transfer regulations and the law. A company run by Al-Khelaifi's brother also asked for 200,000 dollars in 'expenses' over the transfer. Yann Philippin reports.

Document implicates Qatari ruler's chief aide in athletics 'corruption' probe

International — Investigation

Confidential documents seen by Mediapart and British daily The Guardian suggest that the chief of staff of Qatari ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani was involved in negotiating payments that are suspected by a French judicial probe of being used in a corruption plot for the attribution of the World Championships of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). It also suggests that Nasser Al-Khelaifi, the chairman and CEO of BeIN Sport media group and president of French football club PSG, played a greater role in the alleged plot than he has hitherto told the French judicial investigation. Yann Philippin reports.

French anti-corruption police quiz Platini over Qatar World Cup vote

France — Link

Former UEFA boss Michel Platini was held in custody by anti-corruption police in Paris on Tuesday questioning, along with a former advisor to ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy and Sarkozy's close aide and former minister Claude Guéant, as part of investigations into the controversial  attribution to Qatar of the 2022 football World Cup in a vote by FIFA officials in 2010.

How Qatar used an anti-corruption organisation to spy on its rivals

International — Investigation

In just a few years the International Centre for Sport Security, an NGO based in Doha, has made a name for itself in the global fight against corruption in sport. But Football Leaks reveals a hidden side to this organisation which is funded by the Qatari state and which works with the United Nations, the Council of Europe and Sorbonne University in Paris. In April 2015 former police officers working for the ICSS went to Lausanne to tail one of the key figures in world sport, the Kuwaiti sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah. Mediapart's Antton Rouget and Mathieu Martinière and Robert Schmidt from independent journalistic collective We Report investigate.

UEFA bosses helped cover up PSG 'financial fair play’ fraud

International — Investigation

Over several years, Qatar injected 1.8 billion euros into French football club Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) in a massive breach of the Financial Fair Play regulations of European association football’s governing body UEFA. Mediapart reveals here the background to the affair and how the then president of UEFA, Michel Platini, and his secretary general, Gianni Infantino, who is now president of FIFA, helped cover up the fraud, allowing the club to escape exclusion from the prestigious and lucrative Champions League.

The Middle East power battle behind Tunisia-UAE airline spat

International

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) last Friday announced a ban on all women and girls travelling with Tunisian passports to the Gulf state on its national airline Emirates and sister carrier Etihad, citing fears of a terrorist attack. While the ban was lifted after just hours, following outrage in Tunisia and from passengers stranded worldwide, the Tunisian government responded at the weekend with a ban of all UAE flights to and from Tunis. But the events are far from an anecdotal spat, for behind the row is the far deeper conflict of a power battle in the Middle East. Lilia Blaise reports.

FIFA World Cup 'bribery' probe focuses on Monaco bank account

International — Investigation

US and Brazilian investigators have discovered a payment from Qatar of 22 million dollars made to a former executive committee member of world football governing body FIFA shortly after he and his colleagues controversially awarded the Gulf state the 2022 World Cup, well-informed sources have told Mediapart. The payment was made to Ricardo Teixeira, former head of the Brazilian Football Confederation and paid into his account with the Pasche Monaco bank in Monte Carlo, which was then a subsidiary of French bank Crédit Mutuel-CIC. Geoffrey Livolsi and Yann Philippin report.