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By Julien Pretot

Soccer-French federation president Le Graet under investigation for moral and sexual harassment

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Round of 16 - France v Poland - Al Thumama Stadium, Doha, Qatar - December 4, 2022 Qatar's Prime Minister Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani and President of the French Football Federation Noel Le Graet REUTERS/Hannah Mckay

The Paris prosecutor's office said on Tuesday it had opened an investigation for moral and sexual harassment against French soccer federation (FFF) president Noel Le Graet.

Le Graet, who has previously denied allegations of sexual harassment during an audit commissioned by the sports ministry, last week "took a step back" from his duties, with Philippe Diallo acting as interim president, the FFF said.

Le Graet could not be reached by Reuters on Tuesday but French media, citing a statement sent to news agency AFP by his lawyers, reported he denied any wrongdoing.

"In response to a report from the IGESR (General Inspection of Education, Sport and Research) on 13 January 2023, an investigation was opened yesterday into charges of moral harassment and sexual harassment," the prosecutor's office told Reuters.

Last September, the Sports ministry ordered an audit of the federation after the FFF said it would file a defamation lawsuit against So Foot magazine, which reported that Le Graet allegedly harassed several female employees.

Le Graet, 81, has also come under fire from players and politicians for criticising French soccer icon and 1998 World Cup winner Zinedine Zidane.

He was also criticised for extending France coach Didier Deschamps's contract until 2026, two years after his term at the head of the FFF expires.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Alex Richardson)

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