PARIS: French Rugby Federation (FFR) President Bernard Laporte is being held for questioning over his ties with Montpellier owner Mohamed Altrad amid an investigation into influence-peddling and illegal acquiring of assets, a judicial source said on Tuesday.
Four other people have also been detained for questioning - Altrad, 2023 World Cup chief organiser Claude Atcher and FFR officials Serge Simon and Nicolas Hourquet.
The preliminary probe focuses on suspicions that Laporte pressured the French League's appeal committee into softening a sanction against Top 14 team Montpellier as a company he owns signed an image rights deal with the Altrad Group in 2017.
Altrad now sponsors the French national team.
Former France coach Laporte pulled out of the deal but it was already being investigated by the French sports ministry.
Laporte is standing for re-election as FFR president in early October.
In a letter to the clubs - who elect the FFR president - Laporte wrote: "Ten days before a crucial deadline for our Federation, a coordinated campaign of destabilisation falls on French rugby.
"It is a real attempt at a coup whose authors' motivation is beyond doubt. All this is part of a nauseating electoral strategy.
"I am very respectful of the work of the judicial system and I have been asking for months that this investigation be completed as quickly as possible."
(Writing by Julien Pretot; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Ken Ferris)