The FFR president is being investigated by the French financial police

World Rugby vice-chairman Bernard Laporte in police custody

Bernard Laporte, the FFR president and vice-chairman of World Rugby, was taken into police custody for questioning on Tuesday morning following an investigation by the French financial police.

Along with Laporte, four other men were placed in custody. They are Montpellier president Mohed Altrad, FFR vice-president Serge Simon, the head of the France 2023 World Cup organising committee Claude Atcher and Nicolas Hourquet, the head of international relations at the FFR.

Laporte was appearing at a hearing into his links to the Altrad group that belongs to the Montpellier owner, who also sponsors the France national team.

The hearing took place at the headquarters of the Brigade de Répression de la Délinquance Economique (BRDE), who have been investigating since 2017 whether Laporte had favoured Montpellier.

Laporte is accused of pressuring the French league’s disciplinary committee to reduce a punishment handed to Montpellier in 2017, three months after Altrad had begun to sponsor the French national team, with the billionaire owner having also supported France’s successful bid to host the 2023 World Cup.

However, Laporte fired back in an open letter to French clubs on Facebook, claiming that the move was a coup just ten days out from the election of the next FFR president. Laporte hopes to win a second term in charge on 3 October.

He said: “With ten days to go to a key deadline for our federation, an organised campaign of destabilisation is trying to take French rugby down.

“It’s a true attempt at a coup of which there is no doubt about the motivation of the creators. It all adds up to a truly foul electoral strategy.”

Laporte faces a stiff challenge from Florian Grill, the president of the Ligue Ile-de-France, who has been backed by the likes of Serge Blanco, Fabien Pelous and Jean-Claude Skrela in his election bid. Grill had supported the late Pierre Camou, who Laporte beat in 2016 to become the FFR president.

Former France coach Laporte, who led les Bleus to a World Cup final and Six Nations Grand Slams in 2002 and 2004, has based his electoral strategy around winning over the amateur clubs in France, as he did in 2016.

Laporte is also currently in the midst of a battle with the professional clubs and the Ligue Nationale de Rugby over France’s autumn schedule.

The clubs are unwilling to release their players for six Tests, with the two sides negotiating over the matter on Monday prior to Laporte being placed into custody.

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