French investigators raid Paris Olympic organizers office
Paris is the third straight Summer Games organizer involved in investigations led by anti-corruption authorities.
PARIS: Police raided the headquarters of the Paris 2024 Olympics on Tuesday just over a year before the opening ceremony of the quadrennial sporting showpiece.
Raids were carried out at the headquarters of the committee, which is known as Cojo, and at the offices of Solideo, the body in charge of the Olympic construction sites.
Prosecutors Parquet national financier (PNF) confirmed to AFP that they had authorised the raids in connection to two separate ongoing investigations.
A spokesman for prosecutors said the probes concerned, "illegal conflict of interest, misuse of public funds and favouritism."
The first investigation was launched in 2017 involving the anti-corruption and financial crime investigators concerning a series of contracts signed off by "several powerful decision makers linked to the Games, notably the Cojo and their predecessors GIP 2024 (the bidding committee)," said the prosecutors.
The second investigation was opened in 2022 and allocated to the BRDE, the financial brigade of the Parisian police.
They are looking into suspicions of conflict of interest and favouritism.
The PNF acted after the French Anti-Corruption Agency (AFA) raised red flags over several deals signed off by Cojo and Solideo.
According to a source close to the case it involves "consultancy contracts" on "different topics."
Another source told AFP that one of the two investigations surrounded Edouard Donnelly, executive director of operations for Cojo who is also a service provider for the Games via his company RNK.
Cojo and Solideo said they were "cooperating fully with the investigators in order to facilitate their investigation."
International Olympic Committee speaks
The IOC said they had taken note of the raids.
"We have been informed by Paris 2024, that they are cooperating fully with the authorities in this matter," a spokesperson said.
The French sports ministry declined to comment. This is the first such raid on the organising committee's headquarters.
Two reports by AFA in 2021 highlighted "risks affecting probity" and "conflicts of interests" which it warned could impinge on the "whiter than white" image of the Games that the head of the organising committee, Tony Estanguet, wished for.
AFA inspectors said the procedure for purchases was "imprecise and incomplete" and emphasised that there "exists sometimes potential situations of conflicts of interests which are not overseen correctly."
The inspectors drew attention to criminal cases involving the past two Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo.
They remarked that the "risks to probity being observed are plentiful in the context of major sporting events."
David Roizen, a French expert in public policy and sport, told AFP the raids would harm the Paris organisers' image.
He said, "In the eyes of the general public, these raids are catastrophic. (The organisers) have lost their credibility, especially in their duty to set a good example."
"It might turn out they have done nothing wrong, which I hope is the case for the prestige of the Olympics, but it is going to be a thorn in their side until the Olympics," he added.
The raids are the latest drama to affect French sports in the past year.
In May, Brigitte Henriques surprised many by resigning as the president of France's National Olympic Committee.
Henriques' departure led the IOC to call for "everybody to take responsibility so that the internal arguments that have affected the CNOSF these past few months cease."
A successor is yet to be named to the body, which does not have any direct involvement with organising the Games.
Several federations like football, rugby, gymnastics and tennis have also become embroiled in scandals.
There have been two high-profile resignations as a result, the octogenarian president of the French Football Federation, Noel Le Graet, stepped down in February following accusations of sexual and psychological harassment.
That came just two months after France lost in the final of the football World Cup in Qatar.
Former sports minister and national rugby coach Bernard Laporte also quit his role as president of the French Rugby Federation in January after being convicted of corruption -- months away from France hosting the men's Rugby World Cup.
The Paris Olympics will begin on July 26, 2024, and go until August 11.