Organisers of the Paris 2024 Olympics said on Thursday their headquarters had been raided Wednesday by the country’s national financial prosecutor and a judicial source said the raid, which also targeted event management firms, were part of an ongoing probe into alleged favoritism, France 24 informs.
“Paris 2024 confirms that the PNF (Parquet national financier) visited its headquarters on Wednesday Oct. 18 and obtained all the information it requested,” the organisers said in a statement.
“Paris 2024 is cooperating fully with the investigation, as it has always done.”
A judicial source said the raids were part of a probe opened into suspicion of “illegal taking of interest, favoritism and concealment” in the award of several contracts.
The headquarters of the Paris 2024 organizing committee was raided by French financial investigators Tuesday morning, French news outlets reported, possibly marking the latest controversy linked to the global sporting event whose organizers have faced intense scrutiny over the past few years.
The organizing committee told its staffers it is fully cooperating with the investigation, according to an internal email sent to staff and seen by French news outlet RMC Sport.
The email reportedly says investigators are “collecting documents,” from the office but the organizers don’t have “all the information” about the investigation.
According to the French daily Le Monde, the raids are linked to two investigations into alleged irregularities in certain public contracts awarded by the organizing committee.
The event’s organizers have been under the scrutiny of the French anticorruption agency (AFA) since 2017, the report added.
Aside from the office of the event’s organizing committee, investigators also carried out searches at the office of Solideo — the public body in charge of building the infrastructure needed for the games.
The organizing committee recently came under fire for charging steep ticket prices for the event. After the initial set of low-cost tickets priced at around $26 (€24) sold out quickly, fans were left with seats that cost as much as $1,000 for the athletics semi-final events, while available opening ceremony tickets were priced at around $3,000. The organizers, however, have defended their strategy, pointing to the sale of millions of tickets and promising to make more cheap tickets available soon.
French investigators have conducted a second raid on the headquarters of the Paris 2024 Olympics and Paralympics Organising Committee.
PNF investigators also raided the offices of marketing and strategy company Keneo and the homes of Paris 2024 chief executive Étienne Thobois and executive director of Games operations Edouard Donnelly, although neither official face allegations against them.
French Minister for Sport and the Olympic and Paralympic Games Amélie Oudéa-Castéra has claimed she has “no specific concerns”, while Organising Committee President Tony Estanguet has dismissed comparisons to corruption scandals which have blighted the Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.
Financial investigators have been zeroing in on 20 or so of the many hundreds of business contracts that Olympic organizers have signed as they race to prepare the French capital for 10,500 athletes and millions of spectators.
In an Associated Press interview, Paris organizing committee president Tony Estanguet previously vigorously defended colleagues whose homes also have been searched.
Estanguet insisted that the two financial probes of Paris Games contract awards bear no comparison with corruption and ethics scandals that have for decades dogged the Olympic movement and its biggest event, including the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 and the bribery-plagued 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.
“It’s about favouritism, of illegal interest-taking,” the prosecutor, Jean-Francois Bohnert, told RTL radio. “It’s about the way certain contracts have been distributed, the arrangements… But I don’t see any elements, at least not at this stage, that would lead the investigation towards the most serious cases of corruption or influence peddling.”
The raids come at a time when French sport has been impacted by significant separate administrative upheaval and controversies.
The French anti-corruption agency (AFA) had previously highlighted “risks affecting probity” and “potential conflicts of interests” in regard to the Olympics which it warned could impinge on the “whiter than whiter” image of the Games.
Brigitte Henriques resigned as the president of France’s National Olympic Committee in May, prompting the International Olympic Committee to issue a statement that called on “everybody to take responsibility so that the internal arguments that have affected the CNOSF (the French National Olympic and Sports Committee) these past few months cease”.
It is unclear if the investigation will have any impact on the schedule of the games. The 2024 Summer Games are scheduled to take place from July 26 to August 11, next year. This will be followed by the Paralympics, which take place between August 28 and September 8.