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France Opens Official Inquiry into Qatar World Cup

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France has opened an official inquiry about the events that led to Qatar being named the host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

A Paris investigative magistrate will look for corruption in a vote that awarded Qatar the World Cup over Australia, Japan, South Korea and the United States.

French authorities have been investigating the situation for three years, stemming around a dinner between FIFA and Qatari officials on Nov. 23, 2010. The dinner was held at Elysee Palace in Paris, nine days before FIFA awarded the World Cup to Qatar.

The upcoming event will be the first time the tournament has been held in the Middle East. The decision led to accusations of corruption within FIFA, which came to a head when seven top officials were arrested in 2015.

The dinner between French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Qatari prince Tamim ben Hamad al-Thani and Michael Platini, who was FIFA’s vice president and UEFA’s president at the time.

Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who was removed from office in 2015 and is serving a six-year ban from FIFA activities due to paying 2 million Swiss francs to Platini, told Agence France-Presse on Wednesday that he would be willing to testify in France.

"If they ask me formally then I think I will go to France because I have a clear conscience," Blatter said of the Qatar situation.

Blatter also testified to a judge in Switzerland in April 2017. The 83-year-old alleges that he was opposed to the Qatar selection, and that everything was leading to United States receiving the bid until the week before the vote.

"When Platini said that he would have voted for Qatar anyway, especially for the development of football, it is not true," Blatter said. “We had a consensus within the Executive Committee of FIFA, which planned to award the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 World Cup to the United States. … Everything went well until eight days before the election when there was this famous dinner at the Elysee.

"Platini phoned me immediately after. He told me: 'Sepp, it's not going to work, we will have a problem for the election.' President Sarkozy had asked him, suggested, to vote for Qatar. I said to Platini 'Did he force you?' He said 'Not at all, but when a head of state asks you to do something, you do it so I will follow and I will take my friends with me.’
"His friends were the Cypriot Marios Lefkaritis, the Belgian Michel D'Hooghe who would have voted for Qatar anyway, his son having already had a post in Qatar, and the Spaniard Angel Maria Villar. So it made four voices that tipped the vote."

Qatar won the vote, 14-8 over the United States. A month later, Qatar announced it was testing French Dassault Rafale fighter jets, later buying 24 for $7 billion, according to The National.

The 2022 World Cup will not be held in the summer as usual, moving to November and December due to heat. FIFA has also admitted a violation of workers’ standards, following a report by German broadcaster WDR that investigated labor conditions in Qatar. The investigation included data from the Nepal embassy showing that 1,426 Nepalese workers died in Qatar between 2009 and 2019.

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