Organizers of the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France said police raided their offices on Wednesday as part of a judicial inquiry into the handling of the competition under former chief executive Claude Atcher.
Atcher was sacked as head of France-2023 last month after an internal investigation found “alarming managerial practices” amid allegations of intimidation and harassment by staff.
The National Financial Crimes Prosecutor’s Office confirmed on Wednesday for the first time that it had opened an investigation into possible favoritism, corruption and influence peddling within France-2023, structured as a public interest group.
The investigation follows a referral from auditors from the ministries of finance and sports, the prosecutor’s office said in a statement confirming that raids were underway at different locations.
“This intervention follows the investigation of the finance inspectors, charged by the government this summer with verifying the management of the units of the organizing committee”, indicated France-2023 in a press release, specifying that it would not do more. comments so far.
French sports daily L’Equipe said investigators were investigating the misuse of personal expenses, “certain contracts in the past and also alleged irregularities related to the ticketing system for the 2023 World Cup”.
Atcher’s suspension was prompted by the preliminary findings of a labor inspection investigation launched at the end of June, after L’Equipe reported accusations of his “management by terror”.
Atcher’s deputy, Julien Collette, succeeded him as general manager.
The Rugby World Cup kicks off on September 8 next year with hosts France taking on New Zealand at the Stade de France. The final is scheduled for October 28.
The dysfunctions of the World Cup organizing committee are an unwelcome annoyance for France as it prepares to host the Olympics in 2024.
In September, French prosecutors called for prison sentences against Bernard Laporte, president of the French Rugby Federation (FFR) and former sports minister, for corruption and influence peddling.
At the same trial, prosecutors asked that Atcher be sentenced to two years in prison, one of which was suspended.
The charges relate to business deals with Mohed Altrad, the billionaire businessman and owner of Top 14 champion Montpellier, including a deal to put Altrad’s logo on France national team shirts.
Laporte denied the allegations at the trial which ended for deliberation in September, with a decision still pending.