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Police raid French rugby headquarters

Police conducted raids at the French rugby federation headquarters on Tuesday amid an investigation into an alleged conflict of interest involving the sporting body’s president Bernard Laporte.

The national financial prosecutor’s office told The Associated Press the police searches took place at the national centre of rugby in Marcoussis, outside Paris, where the France squad is preparing for the annual Six Nations tournament.

Last month French sports minister Laura Flessel gave justice officials the findings from an investigation into Laporte, who has denied accusations he pressured the French federation’s appeals board to reduce sanctions against Top 14 club Montpellier. It is owned by his close friend, Mohad Altrad.

Following the three-month inquiry, the French sports ministry said Laporte contacted the appeal commission’s president on June 30 and that the phone call resulted in a change of decision from commission members.

Montpellier’s 70,000 euro ($US85,000) fine was reduced to 20,000 euros and a one-game stadium ban cancelled after Laporte’s intervention.

Prosecutors can now decide to open a formal investigation that could lead to Laporte facing charges.

According to L’Equipe newspaper, a dozen police officers conducted the raids.

The French federation did not immediately return AP calls seeking comment.

Altrad, a Syrian-born French billionaire, also has a partnership with the French federation to become the shirt sponsor of the Tricolors.

Earlier this month, the French federation said its ethical committee considered the new sponsorship deal, signed with construction equipment group Altrad, did not cause a conflict of interest.

The five-year contract is expected to yield 35 million euros ($US42 million) for amateur rugby. The Altrad group was the sole bidder.

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