By Robert Harneis –TDO- (FRANCE) On 3 August Paris Saint Germain (PSG) confirmed that Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior is to join them from Barcelona for a staggering 222 million Euros transfer fee, making the 25-year-old Brazilian the world’s most expensive footballer in the world. Huge hullabaloo in the French media. PSG is owned by Oryx Qatar Sports Investments, a Qatari company.
On the morning of August 4 leaks appeared in the media linking ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy with an ongoing investigation into illegal payments concerning the awarding of the 2022 FIFA World Cup to Qatar. Curiously it seems they first appeared in the British media, in the Daily Telegraph and the Independent.
The information follows the classic style of legal sandbagging so typical of high profile legal investigations in France. The Independent head line reads Nicolas Sarkozy 'under scrutiny as part of French probe into Qatar World Cup scandal'. Note the inverted commas that indicate clearly that this is a leak and the Independent does not really know whether Sarkozy is being investigated in this connection or not. An unsuspecting reader might not notice this detail.
We are told that Prosecutors ‘are said to be looking into several deals made between French and Qatari firms around the time of the bid Qatar’s World Cup bid…’. The Daily Telegraph writes that they ‘can disclose that French investigators are examining whether France’s former president may have received funds from transactions negotiated around the time of the 2022 bid, including from the sale of Paris Saint-Germain football club to Qatar.’
Interestingly the French media have been slow to pick up on the story. Perhaps the French media are getting a little nervous about the constant illegal leaking of confidential information about ongoing investigations. One that did www.capital.fr was careful to use the conditional and attribute the story to the Daily Telegraph ‘Investigators may be checking to see whether Nicolas Sarkozy did or did not receive an important sum of money in exchange for his support for Qatar organizing the 2022 World Cup, according to the Daily Telegraph.’ Or then again, they may not…
At the end of the piece they relate that Sarkozy’s lawyer Thierry Herzog denied the suggestion. They also quoted the national financial prosecution service, the Parquet National Financier (PNF), as saying that Sarkozy was not ‘formally and personally under investigation at this stage’ whatever that means. One would have thought that he either was under investigation or he was not. They said that there were two distinct investigations under way. One into the sale of shares in Veolia and another concerning the awarding of the World Cup without any connection between the two having been established. The PNF has been much criticized for a large number of leaks relating to confidential investigations and the enthusiasm with which it deals with some cases and its lack of enthusiasm for others.
Just before his election in May, the current French President Emmanuel Macron said he wanted to cut down on Qatar buying up French assets. He said: 'I will put an end to the agreements that favor Qatar in France. I think there was a lot of complacency during Nicolas Sarkozy's five-year term in particular.'
France has three military bases in the United Arab Emirates, which is currently at daggers drawn with Qatar.
Add all that up and you have what looks like yet another carefully timed leak from the French judicial system that pops up at just the wrong moment for Qatar owned PSG, as they celebrate their big day with the arrival of Neymar. Or would that be just another conspiracy theory?