French rugby boss Bernard Laporte was taken into police custody on Tuesday on suspicion of using his influence in favor of a big money maker in the sport, a legal measure he considers a “Destabilization”, ten days from running for a new mandate at the head of the Federation. The boss of the Altrad group, Mohed Altrad, owner of the Montpellier club and sponsor of the Blues, was also taken into custody by the financial police, as the general director of the 2023 World Cup Claude Atcher, and two senior officials of the Federation , Serge Simon and Nicolas Hourquet, detailed the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office, which is leading this preliminary investigation opened in 2017.
Laporte, 56, is particularly suspected of having favored Montpellier Hérault Rugby (MHR), by intervening with the FFR’s appeal committee to reduce sanctions against the club, at the end of June 2017. “Ten days before a crucial deadline for our Federation, it is a real coup attempt, the motivation of the authors of which is beyond doubt. All this is part of a real electoral strategy that is quite nauseating ”, wrote Laporte in a letter to the clubs drafted beforehand but disseminated while in police custody.
Former coach of the Blues (2000-2007), then Secretary of State for Sports under Nicolas Sarkozy (2007-2009), Bernard Laporte has always defended himself from any intervention in favor of Montpellier, even if he admitted to having telephoned to the chairman of the commission, Jean-Daniel Simonet.
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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, a calendar that corresponds to this phone call. Initially, the appeal committee would have decided to confirm the sanctions pronounced by the League (LNR), that is to say 70,000 euros of fine and a match behind closed doors, before moving to 20,000 euros of fine and a stay on the game behind closed doors. The file concerned the deployment of banners hostile to the League by supporters of the MHR.
Start of term wasted
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. the case in August 2017, the JDD also uncovered the existence of a contract between BL Communication, a company headed by Bernard Laporte, and Altrad Investment Authority, for an amount of 150,000 euros. Under pressure, the former Toulon manager had given up.
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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. Against the backdrop of strong tensions between the Rugby League and the Federation, the case had spoiled the start of Laporte’s mandate, elected on December 3, 2016. She now risks hindering the home stretch of her campaign with the clubs, responsible for dividing him against his main opponent, Florian Grill. The poll is scheduled for October 3. “This calendar is appalling and unworthy of the functioning of an enlightened democracy”, estimated the president of the FFR in the letter addressed to the clubs.
In an interview with Parisian, Bernard Laporte had assured that by calling 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. Simonet, he assured the inspectors of the Ministry of Sports that on the 29th, his commission was only at the stage of a “hypothesis” decision, according to him too severe.
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Questioned by the court during a defamation lawsuit lost by the boss of the FFR against the team, on May 9, 2019, Philippe Peyramaure, one of the members of the appeal commission, gave much less consensual testimony. According to him, 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 shirt sponsor), an important support for the candidacy” from France to the organization of the 2023 World Cup “And that these sanctions should be removed”. “It is the best interests of rugby”, Simonet would have added, according to this version.