The president of the French Rugby Federation Bernard Laporte taken into custody

Bad pass for Bernard Laporte. Ten days to run for his succession at the head of the French Rugby Federation (FFR), the boss of French rugby was placed in police custody this Tuesday morning September 22 in Paris, in the investigation of his links with the group Altrad.

The boss of the group, Mohed Altrad, owner of the Montpellier club and sponsor of the Blues, was also taken into custody by the financial police, just like the boss of the 2023 World Cup Claude Atcher, and two senior officials of the Federation, Serge Simon and Nicolas Hourquet.

Bernard Laporte is particularly suspected of having favored Montpellier Hérault Racing (MHR), by intervening with the FFR’s appeal committee to reduce sanctions against the club at the end of June 2017.

Suspected conflicts of interest

The boss of French rugby, 56, arrived Tuesday, September 22 at the premises of the Brigade for the Repression of Economic Crime (BRDE) to which the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF) had entrusted the investigations in 2017, concordant sources indicated. to AFP. The vice-president of the FFR, Serge Simon, also presented himself to the BRDE on Tuesday morning, noted an AFP journalist.

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Bernard Laporte, former coach of the Blues (2000-2007), who then became Secretary of State for Sports under Nicolas Sarkozy (2007-2009), has always defended himself from any intervention in favor of Montpellier, even if he acknowledged having telephoned the chairman of the commission, Jean-Daniel Simonet.

Inspectors general of the Ministry of Sports also established in a report sent to justice that the decisions of the commission were “Modified”, between June 29 and 30, 2017. As a first step, the appeal committee would have decided to confirm the sanctions pronounced by the National Rugby League (LNR), that is to say 70,000 euros of fine and a match behind closed doors, before moving to a 20,000 euro fine and a stay of the game behind closed doors. The case concerned the deployment of banners hostile to the NRL by supporters of the MHR.

“Judicial interference” according to Bernard Laporte

Three months earlier, the Altrad group, specializing in building materials, had become the first jersey sponsor of the XV of France, before supporting the French candidacy, ultimately victorious, for the organization of the 2023 World Cup.

By revealing the case in August 2017, the “JDD” had also brought to light the existence of a contract between BL Communication, a company headed by Bernard Laporte, and Mohed Altrad Investment Authority, for an amount of 150,000 euros. Under pressure, the former Toulon manager had given up. The police have 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.

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Against a backdrop of strong tensions between the National Rugby League and the Federation, the affair had spoiled the start of the mandate of Bernard Laporte, elected on December 3, 2016. It now risks hindering the home stretch of his campaign with the clubs, responsible for dividing it against its main opponent, Florian Grill.

Monday, September 21, Bernard Laporte’s lawyer, Maître Jean-Pierre Versini-Campinchi, denounced the “Timing” of this summons, a “Judicial interference” in the electoral process according to him.

Discordant versions

In an interview with “Parisien”, Bernard Laporte had assured that by calling Jean-Daniel Simonet, he had simply wished him “To give political light” on the tensions in rugby and that the situation had to be appeased within professional rugby. Jean-Daniel Simonet, he assured the inspectors of the Ministry of Sports that his commission was only at the stage of a ” hypothesis “ decision on the 29th, according to him too severe.

Questioned by the court during a defamation lawsuit lost by the boss of the FFR against “the Team”, May 9, 2019, Philippe Peyramaure, one of the members of the appeal commission, had given much less consensual testimony .

According to him, Jean-Daniel Simonet had called him on the morning of June 30 to tell him about the phone call from a Bernard Laporte ” not happy “, who him “Had said, rather brutally, that Altrad was an important sponsor of the France team (first jersey sponsor), an important support for the candidacy” victorious for France in the organization of the 2023 World Cup “And that these sanctions should be removed”. “It is the best interests of rugby”, would have added Jean-Daniel Simonet, according to this version.

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