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Police raid French rugby World Cup HQ as legal probe into co

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Police raid French rugby World Cup HQ as legal probe into corruption opened

A picture taken on November 9, 2022 in Paris shows a view of the offices of the Groupement dIntrt Public (GIP) France-2023, the organisers of the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France during a police raid, as prosecutors announced they had opened an inquiry into the management of the competition.

Organisers of the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France said police raided their offices Wednesday as part of a legal probe into the management of the competition under former chief executive Claude Atcher.

Atcher was sacked as head of France-2023last month after an internal investigation reported alarming managerial practices amid allegations of bullying and harassment from staff.

The national financial crimes prosecutors office confirmed Wednesday for the first time that it had opened an investigation into possible favouritism, corruption and influence-peddling atFrance-2023, which is structured as a public-interest group.

The probe followed a referral from auditors at the finance and sports ministries, the prosecutors office said in a statement that confirmed raids were underway at different locations.

This intervention follows on the inquiry of the finance inspectors, tasked by the government this summer with verifying the management of the organising committee units, France-2023 said in a statement, adding that it would not comment further for the time being.

Frances sports daily LEquipe said investigators were looking into the misuse of personal expenses, certain contracts in the past and also alleged irregularities linked to the ticketing system for the 2023 World Cup.

Atchers suspension was prompted by the preliminary findings of a Labour Inspectorate investigation launched at the end of June, after LEquipe reported accusations of his management by terror.

Atchers deputy Julien Collette took over from him as chief executive.

TheRugbyWorld Cup kicks off on September 8 next year with hosts France playing New Zealand at the Stade de France. The final is scheduled for October 28.

The dysfunctions in the World Cup organising committee are an unwelcome embarrassment forFrance as it prepares to hosttheOlympics in 2024.

In September, French prosecutors demanded prison time for Bernard Laporte, head of the French Rugby Federation (FFR) and a former sports minister, on charges of corruption and influence-peddling.

At the same trial prosecutors called for Atcher to receive a two year prison sentence, with one suspended.

The charges relate to business deals struck with Mohed Altrad, the billionaire businessman and owner of Top 14 champions Montpellier, including a contract to put Altrads corporate logo on the French national teams jerseys.

Laporte denied the claims during the trial that closed for deliberation in September, with a ruling still awaited.

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