Sarkozy's personal interests at the heart of Qatar’s 2022 World Cup probe

Mediapart reveals Former French President is being investigated for links between his personal interests and his alleged lobbying for Qatar to win vote for 2022 football World Cup.

LONDON - Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s personal interests are at the heart of the French justice’s investigation into the awarding of the 2022 football World Cup to Qatar, revealed Mediapart on Sunday.

The affair was entrusted last December to two Parisian investigating judges, Marc Sommerer and Bénédicte de Perthuis, when the National Financial Prosecutor's Office (PNF) decided to open a judicial inquiry after three years of preliminary investigation.

After leaving the Élysée, Sarkozy was helped by Qatar in his business and was also commissioned as a lawyer by the groups of Arnaud Lagardère and Sébastien Bazin, who would have benefited from his activism in favour of the World Cup in Qatar, according to documents consulted by Mediapart, an independent French online investigative journal.

“Investigations are now starting to converge on Nicolas Sarkozy himself. And for good reason: in the wake of his departure from the Élysée in 2012, the former president personally benefited in his private affairs from the support of the State of Qatar,” said Mediapart based on several unpublished documents it had collected in recent months.

“Becoming a lawyer again, Nicolas Sarkozy also won contracts with two big French bosses, who are suspected of having benefited from the mobilisation of the French presidency in favour of the award of the World Cup to Doha,” it added.

The first French boss is Bazin, former head of the Colony fund, who had sold the Paris Saint-Germain Football club (PSG) to Qatar Sports Investments - a Qatari sovereign fund - in May 2011, six months after the International Football Federation’s vote on the award of the World Cup to the Gulf emirate.

Mediapart said Bazin entrusted missions to the law firm Claude & Sarkozy when he became boss of the Accor hotel group in February 2014.

The former French leader was personally "responsible" for the Accor file within the firm, according to internal documents consulted by Mediapart.

Bazin’s spokesperson denied that Accor boss asked Sarkozy's help to sell the PSG to Qatar, adding that contracts with the Claude & Sarkozy cabinet were concluded under "normal conditions, for "confidential amounts."

PSG President Nasser Al-Khelaifi refused to answer Mediapart’s questions on the grounds that they contained "manifestly false and biased allegations".

The second boss, Lagardère, hired Sarkozy in October 2012 as part of a legal consultation in connection with another Qatari sovereign fund - Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) - six months after the latter had become the first shareholder of the Lagardère group.

Mediapart revealed that some notes from the Elysee Palace had already shown Sarkozy’s intense lobbying for Qatar to obtain significant support from Michel Platini, former boss of the UEFA and vice-president of FIFA, who was "reluctant" to Doha’s candidacy.

These notes indicated that the former French football star would have been convinced during a lunch which was organized at the Élysée in November 2010, with the current Qatari emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani just nine days before the FIFA’s vote.

Sarkozy’s lobbying for Qatar paid off. Following his defeat in the 2012 presidential election, his business thrived thanks to Qatar.

French investigators are interested in QIA’s pledge of financing up to 200 million euros signed in December 2012 in favour of an investment fund “Columbia”, which Nicolas Sarkozy wanted to create with the French businessman Stéphane Courbit.

The investigators are interested in a contract sealed in 2010 between the Qatari sports TV chain now BeIN Sports (formerly Al-Jazeera) and FIFA, according to Le Monde.

The PNF obtained the document in 2019, after the British newspaper The Sunday Times unveiled the contract’s details.

On November 11, 2010 BeIN Sports boss Khelaifi signed the contract with FIFA which guaranteed the granting to the Qatari-funded sports TV chain television rights for the 2018 and 2022 World cups against 300 million dollars.