July 24, 2024

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French investigators search the offices of Paris Olympic organizers in corruption probe

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International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach speaks at the opening of the executive board meeting of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), at the Olympic House, in Lausanne, Switzerland, Tuesday, June 20, 2023.(Laurent Gillieron/Keystone via AP)

PARIS (AP) — French investigators searched the headquarters of Paris Olympic organizers on Tuesday in a probe into suspected corruption, according to the national financial prosecutor’s office.

The Paris organizing committee said in a statement that a search was under way at their headquarters in the suburb of Saint-Denis, and that “Paris 2024 is cooperating with the investigators to facilitate their investigations.” It would not comment further.

Paris becomes the third straight Summer Games organizer implicated in investigations led by anti-corruption authorities in the French capital.

Vote-buying allegations linked to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics and the Tokyo Games in 2021 previously removed several members of the International Olympic Committee from that organization.

An official with the financial prosecutor’s office said Tuesday the searches are linked to two preliminary investigations related to the Paris Olympics that had not previously been made public. The official was not authorized to be publicly named according to prosecutor’s office policy.

According to Le Monde newspaper, raids also took place at the offices of the public body in charge of Olympic infrastructure, and at the headquarters of several companies and consultants linked to the organization of the games.

Paris organizers declined to comment.

One of the probes was opened in 2017 — the year Paris was picked by the IOC as the 2024 host — into suspected embezzlement of public funds and favoritism, and concerns about an unspecified contract reached by Paris organizers, the prosecutor’s office said.

The other was opened in 2022 following an audit by the French Anti-corruption Agency. The prosecutor’s office said that case targets suspected conflict of interest and favoritism involving several contracts reached by the organizing committee and Solideo, the company in charge of Olympic facilities.

The Paris Olympics are scheduled for July 26-Aug. 11, 2024.

The raids unfolded at the same time as the IOC executive board began a two-day meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, expecting to praise Paris organizers for their progress.

IOC president Thomas Bach told reporters early Monday the meeting “of course will be about Paris, where we have some good news after the visit of the coordination mission and after my visit to France, to President Macron, and also the organizing committee.”

The IOC said it expected to release a statement Tuesday about the raids in Paris ahead of a previously scheduled online news briefing once its meeting closed for the day.

While French sports have triumphed on the fields of play, led notably by victory in the 2018 soccer World Cup, they’ve been rocked by multiple leadership changes in the run-up to the Paris Olympics.

Just last month, the president of the French Olympic Committee resigned following a period of intense infighting, prompting calls from Paris organizers for sports leaders to set differences aside and focus on delivering the Games.

Also, Noël Le Graët resigned as president of the French soccer federation in February after a government audit found he no longer had the legitimacy to lead because of his behavior toward women and his management style. Bernard Laporte resigned as president of the French Rugby Federation in January after he was convicted of corruption and illegally acquiring assets and handed a suspended prison sentence.

Last October, Claude Atcher was fired as chief executive of the Rugby World Cup. That event opens in France in September, and also will serve as a test of France’s security preparations for the Olympics. Atcher’s removal followed an investigation by French labor inspectors into his workplace conduct.

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