World Rugby chief La­porte in cus­tody over anti-fraud in­quiry

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - Rugby Union By Charles Richard­son

Bernard La­porte, the World Rugby vice-chair­man, was re­manded in po­lice cus­tody yes­ter­day af­ter ap­pear­ing for an in­ter­view with France’s anti-fraud squad over his links to Mont­pel­lier owner Mo­hed Al­trad, who is also in cus­tody.

La­porte, who is pres­i­dent of the French Rugby Fed­er­a­tion (FFR), was ap­pear­ing at the Paris of­fices of the French fi­nan­cial watch­dog (BRDE).

He was due to be in­ter­viewed as a wit­ness in the frame­work of a pre­lim­i­nary in­ves­ti­ga­tion opened in 2017 fol­low­ing a re­port by sports min­istry in­spec­tors. Three other men were also placed in cus­tody at the BRDE head­quar­ters, ac­cord­ing to re­ports in the French me­dia: Serge Si­mon, vice-pres­i­dent of the FFR, Ni­co­las Hour­quet, man­ager of in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions at the FFR, and Claude Atcher, direc­tor gen­eral for the Rugby World Cup 2023 or­gan­is­ing com­mit­tee, to be held in France. Their in­volve­ment is as yet un­clear.

The anti-fraud squad is look­ing into the FFR ap­peals com­mit­tee’s de­ci­sion to re­duce a sanc­tion against Mont­pel­lier, owned by busi­ness­man Al­trad, who owns the Al­trad Group, spon­sors of the France na­tional team. Mont­pel­lier had been ac­cused of ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties dur­ing the 2018-19 cam­paign, specif­i­cally re­gard­ing the salary cap, and sus­pi­cions were raised among their Top 14 ri­vals when it was an­nounced they had come to an “am­i­ca­ble” set­tle­ment with the au­thor­i­ties over the dis­pute. Re­ports in the French me­dia sug­gested that money was paid to former cen­tre Jo­han Goosen, among oth­ers, via an aux­il­iary com­pany in South Africa, so that only a small por­tion of the wages would con­trib­ute to­wards the cap.

La­porte, the former France and Toulon coach, was ac­cused of favouritis­m af­ter it emerged that a com­pany he owns had signed an im­age rights con­tract with the Al­trad Group in early 2017.

He even­tu­ally pulled out of the €150,000 (£138,000) deal but the case was in­ves­ti­gated by the French sports min­istry be­fore be­ing passed to the public pros­e­cu­tor.

La­porte’s sched­uled ap­pear­ance be­fore the fraud squad came just two weeks be­fore elec­tions for the fed­er­a­tion pres­i­dency, in which he will run against Flo­rian Grill.

Vic­tory in the Oct 3 elec­tions would leave him in charge of French rugby when the coun­try hosts the World Cup in 2023.

Fraud in­quiry: Bernard La­porte was quizzed over his links with Mont­pel­lier’s owner

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