Three of French rugby’s most prominent figures went on trial on Wednesday accused of offences linked to suspect commercial deals.
National federation president Bernard Laporte and top division club Montpellier’s owner Mohed Altrad are charged with influence peddling in connection with sponsorship of the national team.
Prosecutors allege that Laporte used undue influence in securing a role for Altrad, whose construction company sponsors the France jersey.
Both men have denied wrongdoing.
“I’ll have the opportunity to explain myself during the proceedings. You’ll see during the trial,” Altrad said as he arrived at Paris’s criminal court.
Also standing trial is Claude Atcher, the recently suspended head of France’s 2023 Rugby World Cup organising committee, who is accused of breach of trust, abuse of corporate assets and falsification of activity.
Prosecutors allege that his marketing company Score XV received money diverted from the rugby federation by Laporte for non-existent services.
Atcher, who was suspended amid allegations that organising committee leaders had created a toxic environment in which staff were verbally abused and overworked, has not commented publicly on the charges he faces.
The trial is expected to last until Sep. 22.
Next year’s Rugby World Cup runs from Sep. 8 to Oct. 28.