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Bernard Laporte emerged free from police custody on Tuesday as part of an investigation for money laundering of aggravated tax evasion. Already convicted of corruption, he had already withdrawn from the presidency of the French Rugby Federation, pending his appeal trial, under pressure from the Ministry of Sports and the Ethics Committee of the FFR.
New legal troubles for Bernard Laporte. The president of the French Rugby Federation (FFR), in withdrawal since mid-December, was placed in police custody for a few hours, Tuesday January 24, in a case of money laundering of aggravated tax fraud, but came out of it in the evening without continuation at this stage.
“He left without any summons from the police, nor presentation to an examining magistrate,” one of his lawyers, Mr.e Jean-Pierre Versini-Campinchi. “It is a case in which he is implicated for having been associated with rugby friends a long time ago. He has neither been accused of having defrauded nor of having received any sum,” he added. . The national financial prosecutor’s office (PNF) confirmed that he had emerged free.
>> To read: Bernard Laporte agrees to withdraw from the federation, not to leave
According to a source familiar with the matter, this investigation is separate from the corruption case in which the French rugby boss was sentenced last month at first instance to a two-year suspended prison sentence, alongside the businessman Mohed Altrad, president of the Montpellier club and sentenced for his part to 18 months in prison suspended.
The two men were sentenced by the Paris Criminal Court for a corruption pact linked in particular to the sponsorship of the jersey of the XV of France.
In office since the end of 2016, the president of the FFR, re-elected in 2020 for a four-year term, was found guilty of five of the six offenses for which he was prosecuted, including passive corruption and influence peddling. Since he appealed the decision, his suspended prison sentence, as well as the ban on exercising the activity of president of the FFR for a period of two years, are not immediately enforceable.
Ongoing referendum at the FFR
The new investigation, which led to him being placed in police custody, is also distinct from that of the PNF targeting the organizing committee of the France-2023 World Cup for favouritism, influence peddling and corruption.
“He was summoned for a hearing by tax police, he went there with a tax lawyer,” one of his lawyers, Mr.e Jean-Pierre Versini-Campinchi.
“It is perfectly scandalous that the prosecution chose the date of the election of Mr. Buisson [son remplaçant à la tête de la FFR, NDLR] to fix that of the hearing and that the disclosure of this hearing was made the same day”, he added, castigating “a relentlessness of the PNF”.
The investigations, launched in August 2020, were entrusted to the Financial Judicial Investigation Service (SEJF). Two other people were taken into custody at the same time as Bernard Laporte.
This police custody comes in the middle of a referendum of the FFR during which the French clubs must approve, or not, the proposal of Bernard Laporte to appoint Patrick Buisson as deputy president of the Federation.
Some 1,500 amateur clubs in the country are called upon to decide on the candidacy of Patrick Buisson, until then vice-president in charge of amateur rugby, to take the helm of the Federation during the withdrawal of Bernard Laporte, under pressure from the Ministry of Sports and the Ethics Committee of the FFR.