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French Prosecutors Investigate Award Of 2018 World Cup To Russia

A woman poses for pictures while standing behind giant letters reading "Russia 2018" in central Yekaterinburg on January 30 as Russia marks 500 days until the start of the FIFA World Cup 2018.

French prosecutors are investigating possible irregularities in the decision to award the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, media report.

The French national financial prosecutor's office, which specializes in investigating economic crimes, began a preliminary investigation last year, AP and Reuters reported on April 27, citing French officials.

Prosecutors are looking into possible offenses including private corruption, conspiracy, and influence peddling, they said.

The former head of soccer's world governing body, former FIFA President Sepp Blatter, was interviewed as a witness by Swiss prosecutors in the presence of two French magistrates in Switzerland on April 20, they said.

Swiss authorities opened criminal proceedings in 2015 related to the award of the 2018 and 2022 tournaments and are investigating individuals under suspicion of mismanagement and money laundering.

Hosting rights for both tournaments were awarded at the same time in a vote by the FIFA Executive Committee in Zurich in December 2010.

Russia and Qatar have denied any wrongdoing and FIFA's own investigation, completed in 2014, said it had found no grounds to strip either country of the right to host the event.

Based on reporting by AP and Reuters