Bernard Laporte: Police detain French rugby’s top official in connection with a tax inquiry
According to financial prosecutors, French rugby’s top official Bernard Laporte was taken into custody by the police on Tuesday as part of a tax fraud probe.
After receiving a two-year suspended prison sentence and a 75,000 euro (£64,000) punishment for corruption, Laporte withdrew from his position earlier this month without quitting.
The president of the French Rugby Federation resigned from his position as vice-chair of World Rugby a few hours after the judgement.
September will see the World Cup in France.
Laporte was also given a two-year ban from holding any rugby posts, but that suspension has been stayed while an appeal is anticipated.
Results of the vote, which is anticipated on Thursday, will determine whether over 2,000 French rugby clubs approve the appointment of interim president Patrick Buisson, who was handed the position by Laporte.
According to one of Laporte’s attorneys, Jean-Pierre Versini-Campinchi, “He was summoned for questioning by tax authorities, and he went there with a lawyer specialising in tax.”
The fact that Patrick Buisson’s election day was picked by the prosecution as the date for questioning and that the disclosure of this interrogation was made on the same day is completely disgraceful, he continued.
The court determined that Laporte displayed favoritism in selecting France as the jersey sponsor, according to AFP.
A personal friend and the millionaire owner of the Top 14 champions Montpellier, Mohed Altrad, received a contract worth 1.8 million euros (£1.5 million) from Laporte in March 2017.
Altrad received a 50,000 euro (£42,800) fine and an 18-month term with probation. Both men maintain their innocence, and Altrad’s attorney stated he would research the ruling before determining whether to challenge it.
For his image reproduction rights, Laporte agreed to a 180,000 euro (£154,000) contract with Altrad group in February 2017. However, according to the prosecution, Laporte did not provide the services for which the money was paid.
France’s uniforms still bear the Altrad emblem, and Laporte, 58, is currently negotiating a follow-up agreement for 2018.
Laporte, who led France to World Cup semifinal appearances in 2003 and 2007, was also found guilty of interfering with disciplinary proceedings at Montpellier, the team of Altrad. He was found guilty of participating in the club’s fine reduction from 70,000 euros (£60,000) to 20,000 euros (£17,000).
As part of a government investigation into the management of the organizing committee, financial prosecutors investigated the offices of the French 2023 Rugby World Cup organizers in November.