French police raid Paris 2024 headquarters in corruption probe

Prosecutors say they are investigating Olympics organisers over alleged embezzlement of public funds and favouritism.

A view shows the Pulse building, the headquarters of the Paris 2024 Olympics organizing committee,
The headquarters of the 2024 Olympics organising committee in Saint-Denis near Paris as it was searched by police on June 20, 2023 [Stephanie Lecocq/Reuters]

The headquarters of the Paris 2024 Olympics organising committee and those of its infrastructure partner have been searched by French police as part of investigations into alleged embezzlement of public funds and favouritism, prosecutors say.

The national financial prosecutor’s office (PNF) said the Paris 2024 headquarters was raided on Tuesday after a preliminary investigation was 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, was also searched as part of a preliminary investigation dating back to 2022 after an audit by the French Anti-Corruption Agency, the PNF added.

A PNF spokesman told the Agence France-Presse news agency that the probes concerned “illegal conflict of interest, misuse of public funds and favouritism”.

Paris 2024 confirmed in a statement that a search was taking place at the headquarters of the organising committee.

“Paris 2024 is cooperating fully with the investigators to facilitate their inquiries,” it said. It did not give any details and made no further comment after the prosecutors’ statement.

The Paris 2024 Olympics, which organising committee President Tony Estanguet has promised will be “beyond reproach”, will be held from July 26 to August 11, 2024, and the Paralympic Games will take place from August 28 to September 6 next year.

The searches coincided with the start of a two-day International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board meeting 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 ($9.62bn) from an initial assessment of 6.6 billion ($7.2bn) in 2017.

The infrastructure alone is expected to cost 4 billion euros ($4.37bn) from an original estimate of 3.2 billion ($3.5bn). 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 ($437m), has not been included in the overall budget.

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

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 organisation.

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

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies