World Rugby chief Laporte in custody over anti-fraud inquiry
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