Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy could become caught up in a criminal investigation into Qatar’s World Cup bid after it was alleged he may have profitted from multi-million-pound business deals in the country.
French investigators were reportedly investigating whether Mr Sarkozy may have received funds from deals negotiated around the time of Qatar's successful 2022 bid – including the sale of top football team Paris Saint-Germain to a Qatari investment firm.
The Qatar World Cup bid is already the subject of multiple international criminal inquiries into allegations they bribed their way into hosting the tournament.
The scandal has already seen the downfall of Fifa’s former president Sepp Blatter after he was implicated in the corruption probe. He is currently serving a six-year ban from Fifa.
France emerged as one of the key backers of the Qatari bid, despite the fact that temperatures in the Gulf State can reach highs of 40C, making it unsuitable for a summer tournament, and Mr Sarkozy – who was then in the Elysees Palace – emerged as one of the central figures ensuring Paris supported the bid.
A source close to the French authorities told the Daily Telegraph that officers were examining several deals made between France and Qatar – including the purchase of a French utility firm and the sale of a five per cent stake of waste management company Veolia by Qatari Diar, a state-owned investment company.
Mr Sarkozy is known to have close links with to several current and former Veolia executives and the chief executive of the company, Sebastien Bazin, which sold Paris Saint Germain to Qatar in 2010.
His relationship with Mr Bazin is thought to go back to the 1990s when Mr Sarkozy saved the life of one of his relatives.
As a result French prosecutors are now thought to be looking into whether Mr Sarkozy benefited from these deals and whether he knew or participated in any improper transactions linked to the World Cup bid.
Investigators are interested in where €182m (£164m), a sum which they believe “may have been siphoned off the sidelines”, went during the Veolia deal.
Sources told the Telegraph that prosecutors believe it may have been used to make payments to World Cup officials.
A spokeswoman for the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office said they were “carrying out two separate preliminary inquiries” into Veolia and the World Cup bid.
She said there was no established link between the two inquiries and Mr Sarkozy was not “formally and personally targeted at this stage”.