French federation pleased Laporte case gone to prosecutor
REACTION: France's rugby federation said on Tuesday it was "delighted" that President Bernard Laporte's alleged favouritism case has been passed to the public prosecutor.
Laporte is accused of influencing a federation committee to reduce penalties imposed on Top 14 side Montpellier, owned by Mohed Altrad, with whom the federation president had a business interest.
"As the minister [of sports Laura Flessel] indicated in a press statement, 'the evidence is lacking'," said the French Rugby Federation (FFR) in its own statement.
"Also, we are delighted that the public prosecutor can soon lift the suspicions weighing on the quality of decisions taken by us.
"Shielded from the rumours of all manipulation, it will be able to reveal the truth."
Laporte was accused of favouritism after a company he owns signed an image contract with Altrad's eponymous business.
The former France coach and secretary of state for sport, Laporte eventually pulled out of the deal worth 150 000 euros ($178 000).
But a report undertaken by the sports ministry found that an FFR appeals committee had reduced a sanction against Altrad, whose company also sponsors the French national team, following a phone call from Laporte to the committee's chairman.
Altrad had also donated large sums of money to France's successful bid to host the 2023 World Cup, in which Laporte was heavily involved.
"We confirm that there are some grey areas. That's why the report was sent to the public prosecutor," the sports ministry told AFP on Monday.
It will now be up to the public prosecutor to decide whether or not to open an inquiry into the affair.
The report found that Montpellier had initially been sanctioned with a 70 000-euro fine and stadium closure on June 29, which was reduced to simply a 20 000-euro fine a day later following Laporte's phone call to the appeal committee's chairman Jean-Daniel Simonet, without being immediately publically announced.