Paris 2024 headquarters searched as part of corruption investigations

Paris 2024 headquarters searched as part of corruption investigations
The Phryges, modelled on phrygian caps, are unveiled as the mascots for the Paris 2024 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games on November 10, 2022 in Paris, France. (Photo by Marc Piasecki/Getty Images)

PARIS, June 20 (Reuters) - The headquarters of the Paris 2024 Olympics organising committee and those of its infrastructure partner were being searched by police on Tuesday as part of investigations into alleged embezzlement of public funds and favouritism, prosecutors said.

The national financial prosecutor’s office (PNF) said the Paris 2024 headquarters were raided amid a preliminary investigation launched in 2017 into contracts made by the Summer Games’ organising committee.

The headquarters of SOLIDEO, the public body responsible for delivering Olympic and Paralympic infrastructure, were also being searched amid a preliminary investigation dating back to 2022, following an audit by the French Anti-Corruption Agency, the PNF added.

“A search is currently under way at the headquarters of the Organising Committee,” Paris 2024 said in a statement. “Paris 2024 is cooperating fully with the investigators to facilitate their inquiries.”

Paris 2024 did not give any further details and made no further comment after the prosecutors’ statement.

The Paris 2024 Olympics, which organising committee president Tony Estanguet has vowed will be “beyond reproach”, will be held from July 26-Aug. 11 with the Paralympic Games taking place from Aug. 28-Sept. 6.

The searches coincided with the start of a two-day International Olympic Committee Executive Board on Tuesday to discuss a number of issues, including progress of Paris 2024 Games preparations.

“We are aware that there has been a search by police of the Paris 2024 headquarters today,” an IOC spokesperson said. “We have been informed by Paris 2024 that they are cooperating fully with the authorities in this matter.”

The total budget of the Games has soared to 8.8 billion euros ($9.62 billion) from an initial assessment of 6.6 billion in 2017.

The infrastructure alone is expected to cost 4 billion euros from an original estimate of 3.2 billion. The cost is limited as most of the events will be held in existing facilities.

The main construction sites are the Olympic village and the swimming pool in Saint Denis, just north of Paris.

The cost of security, which according to France’s supreme audit institution would reach at least 400 million euros, has not been included in the overall budget.

It is not the first time that Olympics organisers have been the subject of an investigation.

Japanese prosecutors earlier this year indicting six companies including advertising giant Dentsu Group and seven individuals over suspected rigging of bids worth $320 million for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.

The indictments followed months of investigations into alleged corruption in the planning and sponsorship of the Tokyo Games, held in 2021 after a COVID-19 postponement.

Dentsu has offered its “sincere apologies” and said it had set up a committee of outside experts to review the case.

By Julien Pretot

(Reporting by Julien Pretot, additional reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Alex Richardson and Alison Williams)


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